From ulcers to bleeding gums, experts reveal what your mouth says about your health

Our mouths are the only thing we use all the time: chatting with our friends, sipping G&T, yelling at the kids that dinner is ready, and of course mocking all the delicious things.

But aside from brushing and flossing twice a day, how much do you really know about your mouth and what does it say about the rest of your body?

Probably not a lot, which might also have something to do with most of us having to get checked out.

According to Bupa’s new Wellness Index, 60% of Brits have not had a dentist appointment in the past 12 months and 25% say their dental health has deteriorated as a result of the pandemic.

Dentist James Goolnik says tooth health is worth giving priority.

“Your mouth is truly the keeper of your whole body and your dental team is the only one trained to spot the first signs of problems,” he explains.

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“Unlike our medical colleagues, we are in the privileged position of seeing our patients regularly, often when they are healthy. As a dentist

Not only do I detect signs of tooth decay and gum disease, I look for abnormalities and early signs of disease in the neck muscles and glands. “

So it’s not just our dental and oral health that suffer when we skip our half-yearly dental checkups.

The vital signs on our overall health may be missing, from diabetes to cancer to eating disorders.

While National Smile Month runs on Thursday, experts reveal the hidden dangers lurking in our mouths …

lumps and bubbles

A drop of Bonjela usually clears up blisters pretty quickly, but if the red, sore lumps last long after they’re welcomed, they could signal something more serious.

“Ulcers that take more than 10 days to heal may be due to a compromised immune system, iron or vitamin B12 deficiency, oral HPV (human papillomavirus), or oral cancer,” says James.

They can be caused by all sorts of things, explains Bupa dentist Dr. Susie Lloyd: “Poorly fitting dentures, erupting wisdom teeth, infections, medications, malnutrition or damage to tooth brushing.

They are very common. But if you have a mouth ulcer that doesn’t heal, it’s time to get help, ”she explains.

And it’s not just the ferocious sores that could signal oral cancer.

According to the NHS, unexplained, stubborn lumps can also occur in the mouth or throat that do not go away.

bleeding and swollen gums

A few drops of blood after overzealous flossing may be little cause for concern, but don’t ignore it.

“Bleeding gums are a sign of inflammation in the body and a weakened immune system,” says James.

Swollen gums can also signal pregnancy. “We can often tell when our patients are pregnant by looking at their mouths,” reveals James, noting that symptoms include swollen gums and more bleeding than usual.

“It is much easier to see if we have already seen the patient when she was not pregnant, so we can make a comparison.”

Dentists can also tell a woman is pregnant before she opens her mouth, James says.

“Some people feel nauseous when the chair is stretched out!”

Dry mouth

“Dry mouth or a white patch on the tongue could indicate diabetes,” says James.

The latter is a sign of dehydration, common in diabetics, and also a symptom of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels).

“Dry mouth can also indicate thrush or vitamin B deficiency,” adds James.

Tooth wear and tooth decay

Tooth enamel erosion is a major sign that someone is struggling with an eating disorder.

“A pronounced tooth wear pattern may be due to repeated vomiting. This can indicate eating disorders such as bulimia and is also linked to increased tooth decay, ”says Susie.

“This is because the vomit contains stomach acids that are corrosive and strong enough to erode the enamel that protects the teeth,” he explains.

“Erosion increases the risk of tooth decay, causes sensitivity and can even lead to bite changes or tooth loss.

In delicate cases like these, it is our duty as dentists to understand the cause of any erosion and treat it accordingly.

If we hear that someone is showing signs of an eating disorder, we want to direct them for help and ask if they would like us to report it to their family doctor. “

If you don’t have an eating disorder, food could be the culprit. “Tooth decay gives us a clue that your diet is a problem,” says James.

“Worn, thin or sensitive teeth may indicate an acid-rich diet or acid reflux.”


Gum disease can lead to tooth loss and bad breath, but it also indicates a number of other potential problems.

“Research shows links between gum disease and conditions like diabetes, heart disease and blood pressure,” says James.

Your dentist will advise you if he has any concerns and believes you should follow up and see your GP.

bacterial plaque

Plaque buildup may indicate more than just the fact that you need to be more thorough with brushing.

“If your mouth has a lot of bacterial plaque, theories suggest you could inhale it and spread the bacteria to your lungs,” says Susie.

“Although dentists cannot diagnose whether a patient has a lung problem, in poor oral health there is evidence that aspirated bacterial plaque can cause infections or worsen existing lung disease, particularly in the elderly.”

Susie says it’s important to improve your oral health to avoid such a scenario.

Her advice is: “Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, paying particular attention to where plaque builds up around the gumline, and floss or interdental brushes once a day to get into hard-to-reach areas. and clean between your teeth. ”

Your smile and your lungs will thank you.

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