If the eyes are the windows to your soul, then your mouth is the gateway to your overall health. Research has found a surprising number of links between the state of your oral health and common yet serious health conditions. Sharde Harvey, D.D.S, helps provide these valuable insights into oral health.
1. Erectile Dysfunction.
According to a study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, men with erectile dysfunction (ED) are three times more likely to have gum disease than men who do not have ED. These bacteria can also seep into the bloodstream and damage blood vessels, and because erectile problems can be caused by impaired blood flow in the penis, poor dental hygiene can be associated with ED.
Studies have found that people with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, have more gum disease-related bacteria in their brains than a person without Alzheimer’s.
Bright red bleeding gums, also known as periodontal disease, that are puffy and may contain small abscesses or loose teeth are harbingers of diabetes.
4. Parkinson’s Disease.
Saliva helps to wash away bacteria and debris that lead to cavities and gum disease. And if you’re producing too little saliva, your dentist will know. Dry mouth may be caused by medications or it may be a sign of a disease such as diabetes or Parkinson’s disease.
“Your dentist will look for a pale-colored tongue as an indication of iron deficiency or anemia that affects one in five women,” notes Dr. Harvey. Anemia is a condition marked by a deficiency of red blood cells or of hemoglobin in the blood, resulting in pallor and weariness.
6. Celiac Disease.
Canker sores may be an indication of gluten intolerance, also known as celiac disease. Celiac disease is an inherited, immune system disorder in which the proteins found in wheat, rye and barley cause damage to the lining of the small intestine.
Osteoporosis does not cause changes in the teeth, but it does cause changes in the bones that support teeth. “This may show up as a receding gum line, loose teeth and bone loss visible in a full mouth series of X-rays. If your dentist sees any oral signs of osteoporosis, let your medical doctor know right away,” warns Dr. Harvey.
8. Heart Disease.
Inflamed gums and loose teeth can contribute to heart disease. That’s because if you have a gum disease like periodontitis, the bacteria in your gums could travel to your heart and contribute to coronary artery disease.
9. Eating Disorders.
Dentists are often the first health professionals to observe signs and symptoms of eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder, the three most common. “That’s because eating disorders can cause poor nutrition which can lead to oral conditions like bleeding gums and dry mouth,” describes Dr. Harvey. In addition, erosion on the insides of the front teeth may be a sign of forced vomiting in a young person with bulimia — stomach acid wears away at enamel and also makes teeth more sensitive.
10. Reflux Disorder.
Erosion of enamel from the insides of teeth, especially the upper back molars and lower anterior teeth, is a clue to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Reflux disease can cause erosion of the esophagus and may even lead to esophageal cancer, so let your doctor know if your dentist sees possible signs of reflux.