From ulcers to a white tongue, here's what your mouth reveals about your health

Want to know how you’re really doing, health-wise?

The truth could be hiding inside your mouth.

Lockdown and the stress of the pandemic (along with busyness, nerves, and a general can’t-be-bothered feeling) has made many of us skip out on our usual dental checkups.

That doesn’t just mean we’re missing out on fillings. As part of your oral checkup, dentists take note of other problems that can be revealed by your teeth, tongue, and cheeks.

It turns out that without having a professional nosing around your gob, certain underlying health issues may have gone unnoticed, because your mouth really can give away quite a bit about the rest of your body.

So says Dr Azad Erumlu, who has revealed key indicators of health that can be spotted behind your lips.

‘Eyes are supposed to be the window to your soul and if that’s the case then the mouth is definitely the window to your health,’ says Dr Azad.

‘As dentists there are many things we are looking at when we carry out a check-up. Teeth are just a part of it.

‘With long waiting lists and access to NHS dentists more difficult than ever, we want to encourage people to make their dental health a priority.’

So, what should we be looking out for?

Bleeding gums

Gums should be pink, firm, and shouldn’t bleed when you give them a poke.

Dr Eyrumlu says: ‘Bleeding gums might simply be an indication you are brushing your teeth or flossing too hard. So if your oral hygiene is otherwise good and your gums only bleed on occasion, it’s probably nothing to worry about.

‘But most often the bleeding is due to inflamed gums which requires further attention.

‘If you find the basin is regularly red after you brush then this could be an indication that you have a buildup of plaque.

‘Plaque forms when saliva mixes with food debris and forms a sticky film on the teeth. The plaque contains bacteria which, after a while, can irritate the gums and cause them to become inflamed and bleed.

‘There are a number of other reasons gums might start bleeding including vitamin deficiencies, hormone changes in women, certain medications and a poor diet. So if you are concerned, speak to your dentist.

‘Gum disease tends to be talked about a lot but most of the time it can be treated if caught early. That’s why it’s so important to have regular check ups.’

Receding gums

Noticed your gums getting further away from your teeth? This is a common sign of gum disease, which can increase your risk of serious health complications including stroke, diabetes, and heart disease.

Don’t just ignore or dismiss this dentail quirk.

Sore teeth

Noticed your jaw is aching in the morning? You might be grinding your teeth in your sleep.

Dentists can often spot this habit because the teeth start to become flatter.

‘Teeth grinding is common and can be attributed to a number of factors including poor sleep, stress or anxiety, or as a side effect of certain medication,’ notes Dr Azad.

‘It can mean your mouth aches when you wake and can also give you a headache or a stiff neck and shoulders.

‘As well as being annoying it can often mean your teeth become worn down or crack over time.

‘Mouthguards could be a solution, but speak to your dentist who can advise what’s right for you.’

A white layer on your tongue

‘Your tongue should be a fleshy red colour so if you have a white layer or any patches it could be a sign of underlying health problems,’ says Dr Azad.

‘The tiny bumps that line the tongue, known as papillae, can become inflamed which then trap food, bacteria and dead cells – turning it white.

‘Such problems are rare but they should be checked with your GP.

‘Changes to the floor of the mouth are associated with the more severe types of oral cancers and is another reason why regular check ups are required.’

Regular ulcers

An ulcer now and again is nothing to worry about, but if they seem to be popping up nonstop, this could signal that something’s going wrong.

Dr Eyrumlu says: ‘Often people get ulcers when they are run down and they usually clear up on their own within a couple of days.

‘Ulcers can also be a sign of hormonal changes or vitamin deficiencies, and some people will get them more than others.

‘If you have frequent ulcers or one becomes infected, you can see your GP or dentist who may be able to prescribe medicine to help.’

Dr Azad Eyrumlu is the co-founder and CEO of Banning Dental Group

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