Expert dentist warns of six critical changes in your mouth that could indicate serious illnesses
A number of changes in your mouth could be tell-tale signs or symptoms of a serious illness, an expert dentist has warned. One example being jaw ache, which could be an indication of a heart attack, while loose teeth could mean osteoporosis.
According to dentists at Rüh Dental, many diseases can spur on symptoms and changes in the mouth. The clinic’s leading dental expert, Dr Rizwan Mahmood, says:
“This is why people should visit their dentist at least twice a year for check-ups and cleaning. Analysing oral health regularly, along with brushing and flossing at home, can help keep your physical health in good order too.
“It’s also wise to be aware of any changes in the mouth, as well as pain. If you notice anything untoward, see your dentist or medical practitioner straight away." Below is a list of six changes Dr Mahmood says people should watch out for, as reported by Wales Online.
1. Pain or discomfort in the jaw:
"Occasionally, pain or discomfort in the jaw could be indicative of a heart attack," Dr Mahmood said, adding: "Although the chances are rare, it’s important to recognise these symptoms which could save someone’s life.
"Your jaw could hurt with cardiac arrest because the nerves that detect pain coming from the heart, travel to the same general area in your spinal cord as they share the same nerve pathway. These signals then work their way up to the brain. So, in essence your jaw is signalling pain on behalf of your heart."
According to the NHS, temporomandibular disorder (TMD) is also a condition that affects the movement of the jaw. It's not usually serious and generally gets better on its own.
Signs of TMD include:
- pain around your jaw, ear and temple
- clicking, popping or grinding noises when you move your jaw
- a headache around your temples
- difficulty opening your mouth fully
- your jaw locking when you open your mouth
2. Loose and wobbly teeth:
Advanced gum disease could be the cause behind loose teeth, or teeth that are falling out. Another cause could be early onset of osteoporosis - a disease that reduces bone density and weakens bones.
Dr Mahmood explains: “There have been studies showing links between osteoporosis and bone loss in the jaw which the teeth anchor into. This should be investigated further if you’re experiencing random tooth loss."
According to the NHS, osteoporosis is a health condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break. It develops slowly over several years and is often only diagnosed when a fall or sudden impact causes a bone to break (fracture).
3. Changes on the surface of the teeth:
Changes in tooth enamel and the surface of teeth might point towards an eating disorder, says Dr Mahmood. "If the teeth appear eroded and translucent, that can often be indicative of an eating disorder like bulimia or acid reflux.
“Stomach acid is abrasive and can steadily wear away at tooth enamel. Excessive vomiting can also prompt dry mouth, dry and cracked lips, loss of tooth enamel, swollen salivary glands and sensitive teeth," he added.
According to the NHS, tooth decay is often caused by having too much sugary food and drink and not cleaning your teeth and gums. Early treatment can help stop it getting worse. Tooth decay may not cause any symptoms at first. But if it gets worse it can lead to problems, such as a hole forming in the tooth (dental cavity).
If you have a hole in your tooth you may have:
- (tooth pain) toothache
- sharp pain in your tooth when eating or drinking hot, cold or sweet things (sensitive teeth)
- white, brown or black spots on your tooth
Sometimes the tooth or gum can become infected, leading to a painful build-up of pus .
4. Smelly breath:
Otherwise known as halitosis, bad breath can be a result of a dry mouth or due to eating certain foods and drinks. However, it could also be a symptom of gum disease or gingivitis.
Dr Mahmood said: “Bad breath can also be symptomatic for something underlying, something more serious. It could be a pointer to a sinus infection, diabetes, a chronic lung infection, liver or kidney disease."
The NHS says the best way of making sure you do not have bad breath is to keep your teeth, tongue and mouth clean. Do gently brush your teeth and gums at least twice a day for two minutes use a fluoride toothpaste, gently clean your tongue once a day using a tongue scraper or cleaner and clean between your teeth with interdental brushes or floss at least once a day.
People should also get regular dental check-ups, keep dentures clean and remove them at night, use sugar-free mints or chewing gum after having strong-smelling food and drinks and try using an antibacterial mouthwash or toothpaste.
5. Sore and bleeding gums:
Dr Mahmood warns that bleeding or aching gums could be a sign of gum disease. “Gum disease can be prevalent in people with underlying conditions such as diabetes, an ailment which can weaken the immune system – putting you in danger of infection,” he said.
“If you have diabetes, you’re more likely to suffer with a gum disease known as periodontal disease. This is inflammation in the gums and the bones around your teeth. Periodontal disease also causes bad breath (halitosis) and even loss of teeth.
“Diabetes can cause a dry mouth because of a lack of saliva which in turn can cause ulceration and tooth decay. Furthermore, you are also prone to developing oral thrush as it can impact the way your body fights off infections.
“This can put your gums at risk of inflammation because of the bacteria living in plaque. Other signs of diabetes include oral fungal infections, dry mouth, and fruity smelling breath,” he added.
“Fruity-smelling breath can be a sign of diabetic ketoacidosis which is a dangerous and potentially life-threatening condition in which your blood sugar is so high it starts turning acidic. But as dentists we are constantly working around the mouth and can pick up on this distinctive oral scent.”
The oral hygiene expert also said people with gum disease can be twice or three times more likely of having a heart attack, stroke, or developing heart disease and other serious cardiovascular complications. "There are logical reasons why dental health and heart health may be related,” he said.
“Inflammation is a common occurrence in both diseases. The main issue is the development of heart disease due to poor oral health / gum disease.
"The bacteria from the diseased gums can spread through your bloodstream and attach itself to a damaged area of your heart causing inflammation. This can lead to endocarditis (an infection of the inner lining of the heart) and other cardiovascular problems such as atherosclerosis (clogged arteries)."
6. Sores and lumps in the mouth:
Lumps and sores in the mouth can be a sign of a canker sore, but you should have any new lesions checked with your dentist. “These sores can sometimes be the results of a fungal infection or something more serious, so always best to get checked out,” said Dr Mahmood.