Brushing, flossing and regular dental visits can promote oral health and protect you from more than cavities and dental emergencies. In fact, your oral health is often used to indicate and identify factors that might be impacting your overall health and wellness.
Here are five surprising things that your oral health can tell you about your health:
Teeth Grinding Can Be Linked to Sleep Apnea
Teeth grinding, formally referred to as bruxism, is a condition where you unconsciously chomp, clench or grind your pearly whites and can actually occur in both an asleep and an awake state. It can be linked to a common sleep disorder known as sleep apnea. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation has found that 1 in 4 people with sleep apnea also grind their teeth at night. Sleep apnea is when you stop breathing or when your breathing becomes very shallow during periods of sleep. These pauses in breathing can last from seconds to minutes and can occur more than 30 times an hour. When sleep apnea goes untreated, it can lead to or be linked to high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and liver problems among others.
Damaged Tooth Enamel Can Be Linked to Acid Reflux
Tooth enamel refers to the hard, thin, shiny outer covering of a tooth, which covers the crown. It’s actually the hardest substance in the human body and made up of nearly all minerals. Essentially, tooth enamel acts as a shield for dentin, which is the more sensitive inner tooth layer. It also acts as a first line of defense against harmful acids that can be found in certain foods. Foods or drinks that are high in acids can wear away tooth enamel, which can’t be repaired or grown back. When tooth enamel erodes, it can lead to tooth sensitivity. Roughly 20% of Americans suffer from acid reflux, which is when the contents of your stomach or stomach acid regurgitates into the esophagus. Damage from acid typically appears on the back of the upper and some of the bottom teeth, and can cause tooth decay, pain and irritation in your mouth.
Tooth Loss Can Be Associated with Osteoporosis & Kidney Disease
While periodontal disease is the most common cause of tooth loss in adults, it can also be linked to conditions like osteoporosis and kidney disease. More common in women due to hormonal changes that weaken bone, osteoporosis is a bone disease that develops when bone density, mass and structure in the body changes. The weakening of the bone can lead to fractures and other skeletal problems, one being a link to tooth loss. Kidney disease occurs when the blood from your kidneys cannot be filtered properly. It can lead to compromised immune systems and chronic inflammation. One of these inflammatory conditions is periodontal or gum disease, which causes bleeding gums, wobbly teeth and tooth loss.
Pale Gums Can Indicate Anemia
It’s critical to maintain healthy gums because our gums act like a seal and protective layer against disease-causing bacteria. Without this supportive structure, bacteria and food debris would easily find their way into the deeper parts of your teeth. You know your gums are healthy when they’re pink and firm. If they’re pale or pinkish-white, then you may have anemia, a condition that develops when not enough rich, healthy red blood cells are produced in the body. This low level of blood cells can cause a person with anemia to feel weak and tired, and can cause dizziness, headaches, shortness of breath and an irregular heartbeat. Do note that anemia should be diagnosed by blood tests versus simply the appearance of gum color.
Poor Oral Health & Hygiene Can Be Linked to Cognitive Decline
When a person who has a history of or who has previously always taken care of their teeth has food debris or is showing teeth starting to yellow, it can be a sign of lack of self-care, which may be linked to cognitive decline. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIH), a study has identified a strong link between gum disease and dementia; in particular, Alzheimer’s disease. The study purports that the mouth is home to 700 different species of bacteria and suggests that the bacteria that cause gum disease are also associated with bacteria that cause dementia.
If you have any questions at all about your oral health, please don’t hesitate to contact us or your dentist; especially if you’re noticing changes, pain or irritability that you may not have previously experienced.