Experts have revealed the warning signs everyone should know to look for in their mouths that can give you insights into your health.
From wobbly teeth to stubborn sores to serious and even life-threatening illnesses, they can be indicated by the way your teeth, gums and tongue look and feel.
Two dentists, Dr. Hanna Kinsella of Kiln Lane Dental in St Helens and Dr. Kamila Azimova in Ascot, have outlined the subtle changes and symptoms that could be the sign of something more serious.
A red tongue could mean you’re anemic and the growths on the gums could mean you’re pregnant.
Dental patients in England missed more than 19 million appointments in 2020 as the lockdown triggered what has been hailed as a ‘ticking time bomb’ for the country’s oral health.
In addition, more than eighteen months of mask restrictions means that as a nation we have relied on our eyes to smile when we are in public. But now that restrictions on masks are relaxing in many places, our teeth are showing again, so here are the hidden health warnings that can linger in your mouth.
Two dentists in the UK have outlined what to look for in your mouth that could be a sign of something serious – including a red growth on the gums could be a sign of pregnancy (file image)
Can mean: Hormonal Imbalance
“Swollen or bleeding gums, which usually bleed when brushing, can be a sign of gingivitis,” explains cosmetic dentist Dr Hanna Kinsella.
‘This can mean that your hormone levels are not in balance. Hormone changes or imbalances that occur at different stages of our lives can put some women at risk for gingivitis, which is gum disease.
‘It can occur when natural hormone levels change, for example during pregnancy, when the risk is greatest during the second trimester, or at other times such as during menopause.
“If left untreated, it can lead to periodontitis, an infection of the gums and bone, and in severe cases, tooth loss.”
A round red growth on the gums
Can mean: Pregnancy
‘Gestational epipulis or pyogenic granuloma is a round red growth that appears on the gums and can bleed easily,’ explains Dr Kinsella.
“Like most gum problems during pregnancy, it’s caused by hormone changes and usually clears up after birth, but it’s still important to get it checked out as it can develop into a more serious gum disease in a small number of women.”
A pyogenic granuloma is a round red growth that appears on the gums and can bleed easily, and is common during pregnancy, but should be monitored to ensure it doesn’t develop into a more serious gum disease (stock image)
Can mean: Voltage
‘Stress affects our entire body, even our teeth,’ explains Dr Kinsella. Teeth grinding is often related to stress and anxiety and manifests itself with worn or flat teeth.
“Many people who grind their teeth aren’t even aware they’re doing it because it happens at night while they’re sleeping or when they’re concentrating.
Flat teeth are also associated with headaches and jaw pain. Your dentist can make a mouthguard for you to help reduce this or repair the damage it has caused. Botox injections can also help reduce teeth grinding.’
Grinding and flat teeth are caused by stress. Because it happens at night, many people are not aware that they are grinding their teeth (stock image)
Can mean: HIV or cancer
“White patches in the mouth, or leukoplakia, are usually harmless and can be caused by smoking or other irritations or even thrush,” explains Dr Kinsella.
“However, in very rare cases, white patches in the mouth can be a sign of HIV or cancer. Your dentist will examine the patch to rule out fungal infections and make sure it was not caused by biting. They can refer you to a specialist for a biopsy,” she added.
If you have leukoplakia, there is a small risk that it could progress to oral cancer over time. Treatment for leukoplakia isn’t always necessary, but quitting smoking and cutting down on alcohol can help reduce it.”
White spots on the gums, or leukoplakia, are usually benign, but in the most rare cases can also be a sign of cancer or HIV (stock photo)
Can mean: Repeated vomiting
‘Repeated vomiting, such as in patients with bulimia or hyperemesis during pregnancy, can coat teeth with strong stomach acids that can damage and sensitize tooth enamel over a longer period of time as nerve endings in the underlying layers become exposed and more susceptible to decay,” explains Dr Kinsella.
‘Even after vomiting, it is best not to brush your teeth immediately, because this can scratch the tooth enamel. Rinse your mouth with water and then with a fluoride mouthwash.’
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Can mean: oral cancer
“Oral cancer, or oral cancer, occurs when a tumor develops in the mouth, including the lips, tongue, gums, and tonsils,” explains Cosmetic Dentist, dr. Kamila Azimova.
Oral cancer symptoms include painful, persistent mouth ulcers, lumps that won’t go away, and unexplained loose or numb teeth. Sometimes it can manifest itself in red or white spots in the mucous membrane of the mouth and tongue.
‘Often these are picked up by the dentist during routine appointments and so this lack of routine appointments during the pandemic means that some of these cases may still be undiagnosed.
For this reason, it’s important to see your dentist if you see anything unusual in your mouth because if caught early, it’s usually treatable.”
Persistent mouth ulcers, pictured, could be a sign of oral cancer and should be examined (stock photo)
Can mean: Chronic Iron Deficiency
‘Glossitis or tongue anemia is a condition that causes the tongue to become red, irritated and inflamed,’ explains Dr Azimova.
“The appearance of the tongue can change to different shades of red and swell in size when levels are low, it can also change texture. The mouth may feel sore and cracks may also appear at the corners of the mouth.’
A red tongue can be the sign of an iron deficiency and is caused by a condition called Glossitisor Anemia stock image
Can mean: Addison’s disease
“The color of your gums varies from person to person and pigmentation is often linked to your complexion and skin tone, a bit like freckles on the skin,” explains Dr Azimova.
“But pigmentation of the gums can also be a sign of Addison’s disease, a condition that stops the adrenal glands from producing enough hormones as this disease progresses.”
‘Another cause of gingival pigmentation is Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, a genetic disorder that can increase the risk of polyps or cancer. One of the first symptoms is dark blue or dark brown freckles on the mouth, fingers and toes.’
Gum pigmentation is linked to skin color, but a change in pigmentation could be a sign of Addison’s disease, a condition that prevents the adrenal glands from producing enough hormones (stock photo)