What Your Mouth Says About Your Health
Taking care of your wellbeing starts in a surprising place.
There’s a lot you can tell about your health simply by looking in your mouth -- in fact, holistic dentist Dr Lewis Ehrlich tells ten daily if your mouth isn’t as well as it could be, chances are your health won’t be either. “In analysing your own health and fitness, a healthy mouth should be a priority,” he says.
What are some common complaints you should be watching out for? Well, open up and say "ah" to these ...
While it’s normal to see the occasional speck of blood in the sink when you floss, if you experience more profuse bleeding every time your brush your choppers, it could be a sign of oral inflammation and gingivitis, a form of gum disease.
Dr Ehrlich says there’s no better example of the link between oral health and general health than this -- bleeding gums can also be a sign of bacteria imbalance in your gut. "Digestion starts in the mouth. If you’ve got chronic bacteria in your mouth then it's going to make its way down into your gut and prevent you from getting on top of your gut health,” he says.
Stomatitis is the medical term for any irritation in your mouth -- including your cheeks, gum and inside your lips -- that results in pain, swelling, redness or sores. It's commonly caused by injuries and irritations, as well as infections, medication use, smoking, or underlying disease.
Dr Ehrlich says if you’ve got chronic inflammation in your mouth then it’s likely you’ve got a problem brewing elsewhere, too. “Chronic inflammation is the root cause of almost all systemic illnesses, which is why there’s so much research about [poor dental health] linking to heart disease, diabetes, erectile dysfunction, infertility issues, low birth weight, and cancer."
Chronic Bad Breath
No one's immune to morning breath. But if you find that no matter how hard you brush your teeth -- or how much mouthwash you use -- the smell lingers around all day, you could have halitosis, which is essentially a chronic version of bad breath.
It usually occurs when food gets stuck in your teeth, and bacteria breaks it down, resulting in a foul-smelling gas. But other causes include poor oral hygiene, gum disease, tooth decay, infections, chronic diseases, smoking and alcohol.
Dr Ehrlich says regular brushing and flossing underneath your gums is the best way to reduce inflammation, decrease your chance of decay, and fight against bad breath. It’s also a good idea to organise a check-up with your GP to rule out any underlying illnesses, and address any lifestyle factors.
Dr Ehrlich says there’s a difference between teeth that are just “unsightly” and teeth that are “damaged” as a result of wear and tear, decay and the dreaded gum disease. Any one of these problems can have an effect on your health.
One of the most common issues is teeth grinding. While most of us clench and grind our teeth at some point, if it's excessive (also called bruxism), it can result in constant headaches, muscle tension and chronic pain. "It can also lead to sensitivity due to thinning of the enamel,” Dr Ehrlich explains.
Splints and mouth guards can help to reduce the damage caused by clenching and grinding. But your GP may also recommend relaxation techniques, muscle relaxants, or Botox injections if it’s severe.
Another cause of tooth enamel erosion, especially on your upper back molars and front teeth, is gastroesophageal reflux disease, which causes stomach acids to move back up into your oesophagus and mouth. If you’re prone to reflux or frequently wake with a burning taste in your mouth, see your GP.
Getting a good night's sleep plays a key role in your oral health. A study by Osaka University found that the amount of sleep you get every night is linked with the onset of periodontitis -- a serious gum infection that destroys the jawbone.
This matters because the shape of your upper and lower jaws dictates the quality of your breathing and sleeping. "Mouth breathing at night leaves you more susceptible to snoring, sleep apnoea, respiratory infections, tonsillitis, tooth crowding and decay from drying out your saliva," Dr Ehrlich explains.
To have better night’s rest, Dr Ehrlich recommends getting into a good sleep routine. “This starts with going to bed before 10.30pm. And avoiding blue light from phones and other devices at least two hours before retiring.”
Feature image: Getty.