Oral health is directly related to a person’s general overall health. Your mouth is connected to the rest of your body so it makes sense that what happens in the mouth (teeth and gums) can have an effect on other parts of the body. Studies also show the reverse, the breakdown and disease processes of the body can directly affect the mouth.
Oral Symptoms: Headaches with flat, worn down teeth.
Stress is one those things that people underestimate. It takes a tremendous toll on the body and mind. Teeth grinding and clenching during sleep is a classic sign of emotional or psychological stress factors. People who grind or clench their teeth tend to be quite surprised to find out they are doing it. After all, this activity generally occurs in their sleep, when they’re not aware of it, unless a partner hears the noise and tells them.
Patients can sometimes see the flatness of their own teeth, or even feel it with their tongue. They may notice their jaw feeling sore and achy upon waking. Headaches, which are caused by spasms in the muscles during and after clenching or grinding. Often the pain can radiate from the the teeth and TMJ and head down to the neck and upper back. Night guards can relieve the symptoms and protect the teeth from the harmful effects of grinding and clenching.
2. Diabetes or Sjogren’s Syndrome
Oral Symptoms: Dry Mouth or Xerostomia
Dry mouth can be casued by a variety of things. These can include dehydration and taking a new medication.Hundreds of drugs list dry mouth as a side effect. These include medications commonly prescribed such as muscle relaxants, antianxiety medications, and antihistamines. A lack of saliva in the mouth can also be an early warning sign of two different autoimmune diseases. These diseases are Diabetes and Sjogren’s sundrome.
Sjogrens syndrome is largely unknown. It is when the white blood cells of the body attack the salivary glands. This affects many, approximately 4 million Americans suffer with Sjogrens. It is much more prevalent in women, 90% of those diagnosed are female. In Sjogren’s, the eyes are dry as well as the mouth, but the entire body is affected by the disorder. Sjogren’s symptoms often appear like other diseases and often goes misdiagnosed or undiagnosed.
Diabetes affects about 24 million people in the United States alone. It affects both men and women. It is a metabolic disorder caused by the bodies inability to process blood sugars properly. Other symptoms of diabetes include excessive thirst, dry mouth, tingling in the hands and feet, frequent need to urinate, blurry vision, and loss of weight.
3. Lichen planus
Oral Symptoms: White webbing inside cheeks.
Most people would never imagine they can discover a skin disease through an oral examination but you can. Lichen planus is a mild disorder that affects both men and women in the age range of 30-70. The cause is unknown. It affects the mucus membranes in the mouth.
Oral lichen planus appears as a whitish, lacy pattern on the insides of the cheeks. About 70% appear in the oral cavity before they show up in other parts of the body.
The vagina is another common area where lichen planus can appear. Lichen planus often goes away on its own, but sometimes treatment is needed.
4. Oral Cancer
Oral Symptoms: Sores that just will not go away in mouth.
Many people bite the insides of their mouth as a nervous habit. Sometimes people bite their cheek accidentally, creating a wound or sore. But when an open sore in the mouth does not go away on its own within a week or two, it needs to be shown to a dentist or doctor.
More than 20,000 men and 10,000 women a year are diagnosed with oral cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. Most are over the age of 60. Oral cancer has a survival rate of only about 35 percent. This is mainly due to late detection. Smokers are six times more likely to develop oral cancer, but one in four oral cancers develop in non-smokers.
Suspicious oral sores or ulcers tend to be raised sores and often have red or white borders. They may hide under the tongue, where they’re hard to see. Bleeding and numbness are other signs, but sometimes the only sign is a sore that doesn’t seem to go away. A biopsy usually follows a visual check. At each dental visit you can increase your chances for early detection by seeing a dentist that uses a Velscope oral cancer screening system. This tool is effective in detecting precancerous changes in the mouth. Earlier detection means better chance for survival and cure.
5. Aspiration pneumonia
Oral Symptoms: Crusting Dentures
Connecting pneumonia and dentures may seem like a real stretch but they have a deadly connection. A leading cause of senior deaths is from aspiration pneumonia. This is caused by inhaling debris from around teeth and dentures.
In aspiration pneumonia, foreign material is breathed into the lungs and airway, causing dangerous inflammation. This often occurs in those who fail to clean their dentures properly. Dentures need to be removed every day from the mouth. They should be properly cleaned daily with a brush and stored in a cleansing solution.
6. Angular chelitis and Candidiasis
Oral Symptoms: Mouth Irritation
Itching, burning, chronic irritation found at the corners of the mouth and inside the mouth and throat. The irritation in the mouth tends to be bright red with or without a white, creamy, layer. The corners of the mouth tend to crack and bleed easily. Both of these are caused by the same culprit, yeast. Chronic yeast infections tend to be a sign of immune system issues, extremely dry mouth, and/or a collapsed bite.
The above six issues are just a sampling of the many symptoms seen in the mouth. While you care for your teeth, you should be doing a thorough self examination for changes. You should know what the normal appearance of your mouth is, so that when something changes, you can have it checked early. More and more dentists are doing thorough examinations of the entire oral cavity. Know your body, and find a dentist who you feel comfortable with, so that all of your questions can be answered. Regular dental visits are usually key to early diagnosis.