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4 Ways Your Mouth Might Be Telling You Something

A toothache seems a clear indication that you may have a cavity. Inflamed or bloody gums suggest gum disease. Our mouths also provide clues for other illnesses. Knowing what’s normal for you and recognizing changes can alert you to the fact that something is amiss with your overall health.

Symptom 1: Dry Mouth

We all experience “cotton mouth” from time to time. That sticky, dry sensation can make eating difficult and even lead to sores and infection. However, a persistently dry mouth can indicate an underlying medical condition.

Related disease: Diabetes

Elevated blood glucose levels, which occur with type 2 diabetes, can create dry mouth. If you already have a diabetes diagnosis, your medication may contribute to dry mouth as well. Because saliva helps remove debris from teeth, inadequate production can lead to tooth decay and other problems.

Early indicators of diabetes also include excessive thirst, frequent urination, blurred vision, weight loss, and fatigue. Visit the American Diabetes Association for more information about diabetes and oral health.

Symptom 2: Gum disease

Bleeding, bright red and/or painful gums may indicate gum disease. Plaque buildup causes this inflammation and infection to the oral tissue. Early-stage gum disease is known as gingivitis; in more advanced stages, it is called periodontitis.

Related disease: Heart disease

While evidence does not prove that one causes the other, the American Heart Association does support an association between heart disease and gum disease. Both produce inflammation and share common risk factors that may explain why they occur in tandem says the AHA. The American Dental Association says that, even after adjusting for these common risk factors, many studies show an association that has yet to be explained.

To learn more about heart disease risk factors and prevention, visit

Symptom 3: Canker sores

Oral lesions that do not heal are painful. They make eating and drinking difficult. Eating hard foods that scrape or cut the mouth or drinking highly acidic beverages can be the culprits. Canker sores do not pose a serious threat and usually go away on their own. On the other hand, they can also be your body’s way of telling you something. For instance, they can indicate an allergic reaction to medication, nutritional deficiency or anemia.

Related disease: Inflammatory bowel disease

Inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s and colitis create nutrient deficiencies in the body. These deficiencies can cause aphthous ulcers, more commonly known as canker sores. If your have canker sores that lasts beyond 10 days or reoccur, it’s a good idea to seek medical advice.

Visit the Crohns & Colitis Foundation of America to learn more about inflammatory bowel diseases.

Symptom 4: Lumps

Lumps, sores, and red or white patches in the mouth, lips, or throat that last for more than two weeks should be checked out by your dentist says the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. While sometimes they are minor irritations, they can also be infections that need medical attention before they worsen or even an indication that something more serious is going on.

Related disease: Oral cancer

Again, lumps, sores, and other abnormalities don’t mean you have cancer, but they are common signs and symptoms. Self-screening and regular screenings by a dentist at your preventive care visits can help detect oral cancer early—when it is at its most treatable. Early diagnosis significantly increases the five-year survival rate, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

The American Cancer Society provides a detailed guide for those who wish to learn more about oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer. The National Cancer Institute also offers an online booklet that thoroughly covers this disease.

Remember: Oral health and overall health are connected. Brushing, flossing, and visiting the dentist for regular exams and cleanings are important not only to keeping cavities at bay, but also to preventing and detecting other illnesses. When something doesn’t seem right or fails to respond to home treatment, schedule an appointment to have it checked out.

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