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You probably know that following a dedicated dental hygiene regime is important for keeping your teeth happy, but are you aware of the impact it has on your general health too? May 18th marks the beginning of National Smile Month, a campaign by the British Dental Health Foundation to raise awareness about the importance of good oral health.
Aside from the risk of tooth loss, did you know that problems with your teeth and gums could lead to heart disease, strokes, diabetes, and respiratory diseases? And if you are pregnant, gum disease could even increase your risk of giving birth to a premature or low-weight baby.
All of this sounds pretty scary, and you may wonder what the link is between gum disease and stroke, for example. Several studies have found a connection, particularly noting that people who have a stroke are more likely to have gum disease than those who haven't. It's thought that the bacteria responsible for gum disease get into the bloodstream, producing a protein that triggers inflamed blood vessels. This blocks the blood supply to the brain and the result is a stroke.
Poor oral health can be a warning sign that something else is amiss in your body. Take a look below for some of the signals to watch for.
If you're always brushing your teeth, flossing and crunching mints, but nothing seems to stop your bad breath, this may be an indication of disease in the body. This can include stomach disorders, liver disease and indigestion. In the very early stages there may be no other symptoms, but if you frequently drink alcohol then you could be at risk.
A lack of saliva is an early warning sign of diabetes. Other signs include excessive thirst, frequent urination, tingling in hands and feet and blurred vision. Having sufficient saliva is important for protecting your gums against infection. Diabetes can leads to dehydration as the body struggles to tackle high blood sugar, and as a result, blood vessels in the salivary glands may thicken and slow down saliva production, resulting in an uncomfortably dry mouth.
Mouth ulcers appear when our immune system isn't working at its best. When we're run down, stressed or tired, the immune system is suppressed, and this is a warning sign that you need to take it easy for a while. On the other hand, red or raised sores, bleeding or numbness may be an indication of oral cancer. If the open sores in the mouth don't go away after two weeks, then pay a visit to your dentist.
If you're grinding your teeth at night then this can indicate psychological problems, such as stress. Some people are not even aware they have bruxism (grinding of teeth) but they may experience symptoms such as headaches, jaw ache or noticed their teeth are damaged. Visiting a dentist is of the utmost importance as they will be able to help you to find relief for the symptoms associated with bruxism. Possible treatments include the use of custom-made splints that must be worn at night to provide protection for the teeth.