What does your mouth reveal about your general health?
Most people are aware that oral symptoms and changes in the mouth can be symptomatic of gum disease and decay but there are many other possible reasons for abnormalities and signs, including white patches and swollen gums.
TV dentist, Dr Hanna Kinsella, has shared advice for patients with questions about unusual or new symptoms to shed some light on the relationship between oral and general health.
One of the most important signs to look out for when examining the mouth is white patches. In many cases, they will be harmless, but there is a risk that they could turn cancerous. Routine dental checks include oral cancer screening, but with many patients unable to access regular check-ups at the moment, Dr Kinsella urges those who spot white patches in the mouth to contact their dentist. Oral cancer survival rates are up to 90% higher when cases are diagnosed early. Additional symptoms include abnormal swelling in the mouth or throat, difficulty swallowing, lumps in the mouth or throat, persistent hoarseness and slow-healing mouth ulcers.
Bleeding gums are often a sign of gum disease but they can also indicate hormonal imbalances. Hormonal changes are commonly linked to an elevated risk of gingivitis during pregnancy and menopause. Patients who experience bleeding when brushing are advised to seek advice from their dentist. Gum disease is a progressive condition and it can increase the risk of complications during pregnancy and labour in pregnant women.
Another symptom to watch out for is flat, worn teeth. If the teeth are uneven or flat at the front, this could be a sign of bruxism. Bruxism, also known as teeth grinding or clenching, can occur as a result of orthodontic issues, but it may also be linked to stress and anxiety. Grinding the teeth has become more common during the pandemic and dentists have reported an increase in the number of patients presenting with symptoms of bruxism. In severe cases, a bite guard can be provided to prevent contact between the teeth during sleep. Other symptoms of bruxism include headaches, pain and stiffness in the jaw and restricted movement in the temporomandibular joint. This is the joint that connects the jaw to the skull.