6 Things Your Mouth May Be Telling You

What does your mouth have to say about your overall health? You'd be surprised. Recent headlines have discussed the link between gum disease and heart health, but dental health can predict other conditions as well. Your mouth may be the first place you notice symptoms of a disease.

Here are six oral health warning signs and some of the conditions they could signal:

  1. Bleeding gums. These are a symptom of gum inflammation or gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease. Bleeding gums can also signal a vitamin C deficiency or diabetes. For some people, bleeding gums are the first sign of leukemia.
  2. Periodontal disease (even with good dental hygiene). Most gum disease is caused by poor oral hygiene, sometimes combined with factors like smoking. If you're good about brushing and flossing and still have gum disease, it may indicate conditions like vitamin D deficiency or osteoporosis. Periodontal disease also may be connected to some cancers, although the connection is unclear. Pregnant women should also pay attention to gum disease because severe periodontal disease can increase the risk for preterm birth.
  3. Fungal infections. Thrush is a common fungal infection that affects the mouth, causing bad taste and white patches. Bacteria and fungi occur naturally in the mouth. Thrush occurs when too few bacteria allow overgrowth of fungi. Common causes of fungal infections include too many antibiotics, diabetes, and a weakened immune system, usually by infections, including HIV.
  4. Loose teeth. Loose teeth in adulthood may indicate a jaw weakened by bone loss. Untreated gum disease eventually may cause loose teeth, but they also can be a sign of osteoporosis or a calcium deficiency.
  5. Cavities. When you still get cavities despite good oral hygiene, some other disease process may be at work. People with diabetes are susceptible to more cavities because they may have more sugar in their saliva if their diabetes is not controlled. More cavities are common in people with bulimia because repeated vomiting can damage tooth enamel and make them susceptible to decay.
  6. Dry mouth. Dry mouth can be a side effect of many medications, but is also a symptom of some conditions. Sjogren's syndrome is an autoimmune disease that causes dry mouth and dry eyes. Other conditions that can cause dry mouth include diabetes, hypothyroidism and HIV.
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