Your mouth says a lot — and we mean that both literally and figuratively. Because while you might think your teeth and gums have little to nothing to do with your lungs or heart, they can actually show early warning signs of serious health conditions across your entire body, from lung cancer to heart disease to dementia. Read on to learn what different types of teeth problems might mean.
1. You might have type 2 diabetes.
Severe gum disease, aka periodontitis, can be an early sign of type 2 diabetes, according to a February 2017 study. Researchers looked at over 300 middle-aged adults and found those with severe gum disease — roughly a quarter of participants — were at a higher risk for diabetes because they were more likely to be overweight, with an average BMI of 27 or higher. Nearly one in five of those with periodontitis had previously undiagnosed type 2 diabetes, compared with 10 percent of those with mild to moderate gum disease and 8.5 percent with no gum disease. What’s the connection? People with diabetes are more susceptible to contracting infections, according to the American Academy of Periodontology.
2. You might be pregnant.
If you ace oral health but suddenly start noticing that your gums are inflamed and bleeding, it may be a sign you’re pregnant. According to the American Pregnancy Association, gingivitis is common during pregnancy because the hormonal changes increase blood flow to the gum tissue, causing your gums to be more sensitive, irritable, and swollen. What’s more, these new hormones can thwart your body’s ability to fight bacteria, increasing your risk for plaque buildup.
3. You might have Alzheimer’s disease.
Folks with poor oral hygiene or gum disease could be at higher risk of developing — or having — Alzheimer’s disease, according to a July 2013 study, which found a greater presence of a periodontal disease-related bacteria, Porphyromonas gingivalis, in the brains of people with dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association points out gum disease doesn’t cause dementia, and it’s much more likely Alzheimer’s causes people to forget to take good care of their teeth.
4. You might be deficient in certain vitamins.
Malnutrition and poor oral health and have interdependent relationship — each one can lead to the other. A January 2013 study analysis found that, without enough vitamins, your mouth has a lower resistance to the microbial biofilm that comes from plaque and a lower ability to heal inflamed gum tissue. A deficiency of vitamin D and A can affect the enamel on your teeth, while a vitamin B deficiency can cause your lips to crack, your cheeks to develop ulcers, your gum lining to become inflamed, and your mouth and tongue to develop a burning sensation.
5. You might have osteoporosis.
In a December 2012 study analysis of 17 studies, 11 showed a connection between those who have periodontal disease also having osteoporosis. The American Academy of Periodontology explains the link is probably thanks to the fact that osteoporosis exacerbates tooth loss by decreasing the density of the bone that supports the teeth, compromising the foundation on which the teeth live.
6. You might have a sugar problem.
Sugar is the only cause of tooth decay, or cavities, in both kids and adults, according to a May 2014 study. British researchers looked at public health records from around the world and found that 60 to 90 percent of U.S. school-age kids as well as 92 percent of U.S. adults have had tooth decay at some point in their lives. Comparatively, only 2 percent of people in Nigeria — a place where sugar in the diet is almost completely nonexistent — have experienced tooth decay. This is backed by a February 2012 study that found obese kids are more likely to have cavities because they nosh on sugary and fatty foods more often, and the more you expose your teeth to damaging substances, the higher your risk for cavities.
7. You might be at risk for lung cancer.
People with gum disease have an increased risk of developing lung cancer, according to June 2016 research. What’s more, if you have periodontal disease and diabetes, the risk for lung cancer jumps even higher. Researchers aren’t quite sure why — one of the studies within this analysis speculated oral bacteria might play a role in cancer cells developing in the lungs, while another suggests the treatment for periodontal disease may help reduce lung cancer risk.
8. You might be at risk for heart disease.
The American Dental Association points out that we now have over three decades of research confirming an association between gum disease, plaque buildup, and cardiovascular disease. A February 2017 study from the American Stroke Association confirms even adults with mild gum disease are nearly two times more likely to have an ischemic stroke risk than those without oral health issues. But the jury’s still out on whether the infectious and inflammatory gum disease process contributes to heart attacks and stroke, or whether the two merely cross paths because of mutual risk factors, like smoking, age, and type 2 diabetes.
9. You might have an eating disorder.
Yep, your dentist may be the first person to find out you have an eating disorder. Studies show that up to 89 percent of patients with bulimia show signs of tooth erosion from the bile acid passing by their teeth so often, according to the American Dental Association. Over time, this loss of tooth enamel can cause your teeth to change color, shape, length, sensitivity, and
10. You might not live as long.
In a March 2017 study, researchers from the University of Buffalo analyzed over 55,000 women 55 years and older and found that over seven years, women with periodontal disease had a 12 percent higher risk of death from any cause, while those who lost all their teeth had a 17 percent higher risk compared to those who kept their pearly whites intact into old age. Why? Well, the women who lost their teeth were older and had more cardiovascular disease risk factors — two things that up your risk of death (not to mention all the other top killers linked to gum disease on this list).