Oral Health: Your Mouth Has Secrets to Tell!

4 Dec

Did you know that signs of health problems involving digestion, breathing, connective tissue, skin, and even the medications you are taking can show up in your mouth? Who knew your oral health was so important!

Have you ever experienced canker sores, swelling, redness, dry mouth, or swollen gums and wondered if it was related to something else going on in your body?

Welcome to the Oral Cavity

Many diseases you could contract will manifest in the yawning abyss called the oral cavity. These manifestations are not themselves a diagnosis but will alert an experienced dental professional to perform further examinations.

These exams can be the key to early identification and treatment of concurrent systemic disease. In some cases proper and timely examinations may lead to preventative health care that can help you avoid the diseases altogether.

If you develop any lesions or abnormalities in your mouth, it is very important that you see your dentist for a complete diagnosis. A qualified dental professional will be able to recommend treatment or provide a referral to a specialist if needed.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late!

As the mouth is the entry for the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, it is often involved when a person has conditions affecting the GI system. These conditions can cause severe pain and lead to more severe health problems if not dealt with quickly and correctly.

Crohn’s Disease

A form of inflammatory bowel disease. It usually affects the intestines, but may occur anywhere from the mouth to the end of the rectum. Its symptoms include diarrhea, constipation, pain, and fever.

Malabsorption of nutrients can result in subsequent malnutrition as the disease progresses. Oral manifestations in people with Crohn’s disease may include tissue swelling, cobblestoning of gum tissue, canker sores, deep cracks in the corner of the mouth, and nodules.

Swollen lips can occur and this is most often a cosmetic complaint, but can be painful. Additionally, increases in the number of cavities a patient has may be related to a resulting decrease in saliva production.

Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD)

A common condition, which involves regurgitation of stomach contents, causing acid in the mouth, which dissolves tooth enamel. It is most commonly seen on the inside surfaces of front upper teeth.

Erosion of the enamel exposes the dentin, which is softer, and can develop decay much more quickly. Good dental care and control of acid helps decrease erosion, however, once it occurs, it is irreversible and can only be treated with restorative dentistry.

Therefore, early recognition, patient awareness and education are critical to avoid severe dental damage and eventual loss of teeth.

Blood Disorders

Can result in a decreased resistance to infection and fatigue. In the mouth, these can present with recurrent canker sores, yeast infections, and reddened tongue. Left untreated these disorders can lead to body-wide health problems including those as severe as organ failure.

Sjogren Syndrome

The second most common auto-immune disease affecting women, and in fact 90% of Sjogren Syndrome patients are female. Oral symptoms of this disease include difficulty in swallowing and eating, disturbances in taste and speech, and a predisposition to infection.

For sufferers of Sjogren Syndrome, oral yeast infections and an increased amount of cavities are common. This is due to a serious decrease in the amount of saliva present in the mouth and is relied on to rinse away or dilute food.

Good oral health and frequent dental visits are essential in minimizing the effects of poor saliva flow and this serious disease.


Are among the most common causes of recurrent canker sores. Dry mouth can occur with certain medications due to dehydration (for example with diuretics) or anticholinergic activity (with some antidepressants).

Long-term effects of dry mouth can include an increase in infections, cavities, and ulcerations due to lack of lubrication. A frequent complication of inhaled steroids is thrush (candidiasis) which looks like small, whitish areas which can be wiped off resulting in inflamed or bleeding tissue underneath.

Rinsing your mouth after using the inhaler is recommended to decrease the frequency of thrush. If you are experiencing any of these side effects it is important that you contact your doctor or a dentist immediately for advice.


A chronic (lifelong) disease marked by high levels of sugar in the blood. It occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin, or when the insulin produced is not used effectively.

Diabetes may lead to reduced quality of life as well as complications such as heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. In 2009, 6.0% of Canadians aged 12 and older reported that they had diabetes. Your mouth can offer many early warnings of diabetes.

Oral symptoms can include poor healing, infections, increased tooth mobility, gingivitis, and bone loss. A dentist can diagnose these symptoms and help you get early control over the disease. In studying heart disease, researchers have found that people with gum disease are almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease.

Several theories exist to explain the link between periodontal disease and heart disease.

Healthy Hearts

One theory is that oral bacteria can affect the heart when they enter the blood stream, attaching to fatty plaques in the coronary arteries and contributing to clot formation.

Coronary artery disease is characterized by a thickening of the walls of the coronary arteries due to the buildup of fatty proteins. Blood clots can obstruct normal blood flow, restricting the amount of nutrients and oxygen required for the heart to function properly. This may lead to heart attacks.

Another possibility is that the inflammation caused by periodontal disease increases plaque build-up, which may contribute to swelling of the arteries.

Your dentist and hygienist play a vital role in helping you reduce the risk of suffering from the consequences of heart disease, and regular routine visits to your dentist can reduce the risk of this going unnoticed.

Your Dentist Can Help

The fact is well established that there are numerous disorders which are accompanied by oral symptoms or signs. In a sizeable number of instances, the oral clues are the first and sometimes even the only evidence of the health problem.

Your dentist can help you stay maintain good oral health and support you in prevention and treatment of many diseases. To do so however, you must stay on track with your routine dental visits and don’t hesitate to ask or discuss any concerns you may have regarding your oral health.

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