Many health conditions in the body can first be seen from symptoms that show up in the mouth. It is important to recognize and treat these dental signs in order to maintain whole body health. Many of the signs are more significant when they appear with other signs rather than singularly. However, any of the symptoms should be checked out by a dentist or doctor. When it comes to your health, prevention and early diagnosis are the keys to longevity. Here is a list of seven symptoms:
#1.Sores or blisters that stick around longer than two weeks may be a warning sign of oral cancer. The sores usually are raised and have a red &/or white border. Don’t forget to look under the tongue. A white or red patch of abnormal skin cells may also appear inside the mouth or lips.Although more prevalent in smokers, heavy alcohol consumers or drug users, this cancer can also appear in anyone. Like all cancers, if left untreated, it can cause death. Unfortunately, this cancer only has as 35% survival rate, mostly because it is not found early enough. However, also realize, that sores that won’t go away also can indicate periodontal disease.
#2.Headaches, painful jaws, earaches or even pain running down the neck and into the upper back have several possible causes. Sinus issues, TMJ (Temporomandibular joint) disorder, toothache, arthritis, periodontal problems, grinding teeth, stress, or injury can all manifest into jaw pain. If the issue is causing clenching of the teeth that often happens with TMJ, night grinding or stress, then a mouth guard worn at night can relieve the pain.
#3. Flat ground-down teeth are another symptom of teeth grinding(bruxism) or teeth clenching at night, often caused by stress or a central nervous system reaction. It can also be caused by an abnormal bite or missing teeth. Since this occurs during sleep, many people are unaware that they have this problem. Constant grinding wears down the top layer of enamel making teeth sensitive and even causing fracturing. Wearing a night mouth guard, avoiding alcohol and caffeine, reducing stress, and managing stress through relaxation techniques can help the bruxism. Growing children often experience night grinding; however, this is usually not treated and goes away.
#4. Dry mouth is a symptom of numerous health conditions. Medications (such as those treating depression andincontinence, muscle relaxants, antianxiety agents, and antihistamines), smoking, and allergies are probably the most common causes of dry mouth. However, two more serious conditions are Sjogren’s syndrome and diabetes. Four million Americans suffer from Sjogren’s and twenty four million from diabetes. Dry mouth is a problem because it increases the risk of periodontal disease and mouth infections like thrush. Things to increase the saliva flow in the mouth include: sucking on sugarless candy, drinking lots of water, breathing through the nose (not mouth), using a room vaporizer, and using over-the-counter dry mouth rinses.
#5 White lacy web-like streaks on the mucus membrane of the cheek or gums is a skin disorder called oral lichen planus. Although mostly found in middle age adults, the cause is unknown and thought to be related to allergies or an immune reaction. It is not contagious; however, no curative is available. Good oral hygiene, eliminating smoking and alcohol, and changing medications that may exasperate any pain are advised.
#6 Cracking crumbling teeth are often caused by Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Stomach acids are back up into the esophagus and mouth. These acids eat away at the teeth. This acid reflux disease can occur at any age, but is more predominate in older people. However, bulimia often found in the younger generation can also cause the teeth to erode by stomach acid as undigested food is vomited.
#7 The abnormal growth of gums over the teeth can be caused by certain medication, typically heart or seizure meds. This is often a sign that the dosage of such medication needs to be adjusted. If left unchecked, excessive growth can make it difficult to remove bacteria around the tooth and gums, causing periodontal disease.
If any of the symptoms appear in your mouth or in the mouth of a person in your care, get it checked out by your dentist. The mouth is a window to the health of your entire body.
Dr. Piero, a practicing dentist for over twenty five years, is the inventor of Dental Air Force. Articles published are on periodontal health related to heart disease, respiratory health, diabetes, strokes, and other systemic diseases. He is the Executive Editor for Journal of Experimental Dental Science, a contributing author to Hospital Infection Control: Clinical Guidelines and author of a soon to be published book, Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is.