I often tell my patients that our body is a magnificent system in which everything works together to create YOU: a living, breathing, complete human being. In medicine, often we focus so much on different parts of the human body that we forget there is an entire whole.

One of the areas I see neglected by a large number of people is oral health. Besides occasional brushing, it can be easy to forget this vital piece to our health and well being.

What are some ways your oral health is connected to the rest of your body?

Here are some mouth-related issues that can be signs/symptoms of something else going on:

#1 Lots Of Cavities In A Previously Cavity-Free Mouth

It may mean: diabetes 

If you’ve always been one of the dentist’s star patients and show up one day with multiple cavities, it could be a sign your body is not processing glucose properly. If sugar is not digested then it can build up in your saliva and feed bacteria in your mouth, resulting in cavities. (1)

If this happens to you it is a good idea to see your doctor and get tested for diabetes or other related issues. Other oral symptoms of diabetes may include: oral thrush, gum disease and dry mouth.

#2 Bleeding Gums

It may mean: greater risk of cardiovascular (heart) problems 

Studies have found that at least half of Americans have bleeding gums when they brush or floss. Many of these people don’t pay much attention to it or even assume it’s normal. The truth is, bleeding gums is a sign of bacterial infection in your mouth (gum disease). If the infection is not address it can spread throughout your teeth and into your jaw. (2)

Research suggests that gum disease may increase the risk of clogged arteries, heart disease, stroke and respiratory disease. (4)

#3 Tooth Erosion

It may mean: GERD

Tooth erosion generally happens when acid from the stomach travels up the esophagus all the way to the mouth and teeth. Acid reflux/heartburn happens to everyone on occasion but if it is happening frequently, it may be a sign your have GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). GERD is a chronic condition in which one experiences frequent heartburn and other symptoms like indigestion, chest pain, bad breath, a sour taste in the mouth, a burning in the throat and possible respiratory problems. About 20% of the U.S. population has GERD; Read more about GERD and how to treat it here.

Stomach acid is not meant to be in the mouth and will slowly wear away at the tooth enamel, making your teeth extra sensitive and possibly colored yellow.

#4 White Spots On Tongue

It may mean: oral thrush

If you have white patches on your tongue it may mean your have oral thrush. This is a Candida (yeast) infection in the mouth. It is more common in babies and toddlers, but can happen in adults too, especially if you have a weak immune system, diabetes or dry mouth.

#5 Worn Down Teeth

It may mean: sleep apnea

Worn down teeth can be an indicator of sleep apnea. This is because if your airway is not fully open during sleep, you will naturally clench and grind your teeth in an effort to open it up. It’s the body’s self-defense mechanism when you are unconscious.

Another oral sign of sleep apnea is ridges on the side of the tongue. 80% of people who suffer from sleep apnea have these ridges.

#6 Lesions On The Lips And Inside The Mouth

It may mean: HPV

Lesions on the lips or inside the mouth are an early sign of HPV (human papollimavirus). HPV is a common sexually transmitted disease that affects over 70 million Americans. In most cases, HPV is harmless and will go away on its own but some types may lead to cancer. (3)

#7 Cavities + Tooth Erosion

It may mean: malnutrition

Chronic cavities and tooth erosion can indicate serious nutritional deficiencies. Either you are not eating a well balanced diet OR your body is unable to absorb nutrients properly. In either case, working with a healthcare professional to get to the root of the problem is important.

Partha’s Prescriptions For Excellent Oral Health

  1. Decrease consumption of sugar, carbonated beverages and hard candy.
  2. Brush for 3 minutes before bed and floss daily. 
  3. Consume plenty of healthy fats and minerals from foods like coconut oil, avocado oil, butter, ghee, nuts and seeds, wild-caught fish).
  4. Vitamin D. Either get 20-30 minutes of sun every day or supplement with 2000 iu daily.

References

  1. https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/OralHealth/Topics/Diabetes/
  2. https://www.perio.org/consumer/cdc-study.htm
  3. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/stds-hiv-safer-sex/hpv
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC88948/