YOU might not think about your oral health beyond brushing your teeth.
But it can pay to take notice.
From bleeding gums to cracked skin, your mouth and gums can tell you a lot about your overall health.
Here, with the help of Melanie Dixon, registered nutritional therapist at Vitaminology, Lucy Gornall reveals five things that your smile can tell you.
BLEEDING, PALE OR RECEDING GUMS
YOUR gums can reveal a lot about your health.
Melanie warns: “If gums are pale, receding or bleed when you brush, it could be a sign of periodontal disease, which can lead to other health problems.”
Harvard University scientists found people with gum disease have two to three times greater risk of heart attack or suffering a stroke.
While the link is not concrete, experts believe inflammation, which is a big part of gum disease, can also cause hardened arteries, making it harder for blood to flow to the heart.
Gum problems can also be caused by poor oral hygiene, smoking or a diet low in nutrients. See your dentist if you spot these signs. Cut back on sugary food and get the right nutrients.
Melanie says: “Taking a multivitamin and omega-3 fish oil could be a good way to support any nutritional insufficiencies.”
A SLIGHT white coating on your tongue is normal, and white spots or patches are usually harmless.
But in some cases they can be a sign of an infection – or something more serious.
Melanie warns: “Unusual white patches may be cancerous and should be investigated and treated.”
As well as mouth cancer, they can be a sign of oral lichen planus – an inflammatory condition – oral thrush, geographic tongue or syphilis.
But the most common, harmless causes include poor oral hygiene, dry mouth syndrome, mouth breathing, dehydration, smoking or excess alcohol.
Melanie adds: “Minimise the risk of a white tongue by practising good oral hygiene, drinking plenty of fluids, avoiding smoking and alcohol and addressing issues that may be causing mouth breathing.”
OPEN WIDE, PLEASE
TO help keep your smile healthy, visit your dentist regularly and maintain good oral hygiene, with twice-daily brushing and flossing.
If you’re worried about any unusual symptoms, go to see your dentist or GP.
IF you have ever been plagued by a mouth ulcer, you’ll know how painful they can be.
Melanie says: “These are small, red sores with a pale centre, which develop in the mouth.
“Biting inside the cheek, poor-fitting dentures, toothpastes containing sodium lauryl sulphate, food sensitivities, infections, hormonal changes, deficiencies in B vitamins, zinc and iron or certain diseases can cause ulcers.”
While most are harmless, in some cases they can be a sign of mouth cancer – if they are painful and don’t heal after several weeks.
They can also be a sign of hand, foot and mouth disease, as well as conditions that cause inflammation in the digestive tract, such as coeliac disease, Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis. In most cases over-the-counter topical anaesthetics can help alleviate symptoms.
OTHERWISE known as halitosis, bad breath affects lots of people for a wide range of reasons.
“It could be down to a bad diet, poor oral hygiene, periodontal disease, tooth decay or illness,” says Melanie.
A common culprit is acid reflux – when the contents of the stomach flow back up into the throat.
“These acidic contents cause a bitter taste, heartburn, nausea and bad breath, sometimes associated with a recurrent cough, hiccups or a hoarse voice,” she adds.
“Being overweight, stressed, smoking, eating too quickly, eating large meals, drinking alcohol, eating spicy or fatty foods and even taking certain medications can increase your risk of acid reflux and bad breath.”
Try simple changes like eating smaller, more frequent meals. A local pharmacist can advise on medicines called antacids.
CRACKS at the sides of your mouth can be sore or even painful.
Melanie says they could be due to the condition angular cheilitis.
“This can be associated with low levels of nutrients such as some B vitamins, iron and zinc,” she tells Sun Health.
“People with inflammatory digestive disorders, such as coeliac disease, Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, which affect nutrient absorption, are at greater risk.”
Eat foods rich in B vitamins, including eggs, leafy greens, fish, beef, chicken and dairy products.
Iron can be found in liver, red meat, nuts, fortified foods and dried fruit, while zinc is in whole grains and chicken.
Other causes include low dietary protein, smoking, ageing, rapid weight loss, infection and diabetes.
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