By Anna Hodgekiss for MailOnline 16:18 24 Oct 2014, updated 19:08 24 Oct 2014
- Even 'minor' dental conditions can signal more serious health problems
- Dr Sameer Patel, Clinical Director at Elleven Dental, outlines what to look for
- 'The mouth can tell you a great deal about your overall health,' he says
Dental problems can signify more than sweet tooth - and could even be a sign of serious disease, an expert has warned.
From the colour of your teeth to the condition of gums, the mouth can tell you a great deal about your overall health, says Dr Sameer Patel, Clinical Director at Elleven Dental, London.
Even minor dental conditions can sometimes be a sign of more serious health concerns, he warns.
So what should you be looking for?
Here, Dr Patel outlines some key warning signs.
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Your mouth can provide clues about your overall health - and could indicate you are stressed or have an underlying condition, dentists say
BAD BREATH: Liver disease
If you’ve tried brushing your teeth and tongue as well as flossing regularly and using breath fresheners, bad breath may be a symptom of something more serious and indicate a disease elsewhere in the body.
These include stomach disorders, indigestion and occasionally liver disease. This often shows no other symptoms in the early stages but is more likely to occur if you drink a lot of alcohol.
Visit your dentist if you have any concerns.
YELLOW TEETH: Medication
A number of medications have been linked to yellow teeth. These include antibiotics such as tetracycline - often used for acne - mouth rinses specifically used to treat gum disease, and medicines for high blood pressure .
The best way to treat yellow teeth is to seek professional advice on whitening.
Toothpastes which claim to ‘whiten’ teeth will only remove superficial stains and not have any impact on the colour of the existing surface of the teeth.
Unsuccessful attempts to freshen breath could indicate a disease elsewhere in the body, such as stomach disorders, indigestion and occasionally liver disease
DRY MOUTH: Diabetes
Although a dry mouth can often be attributed to dehydration and other factors such as alcohol consumption and smoking, a lack of sufficient saliva is one of the earliest symptoms of diabetes.
The condition causes blood vessels in the salivary glands to thicken and slows down
the natural production of saliva.
This can make the gums more prone to infections. Other symptoms include excessive thirst, tingling in the hands and feet, frequent urination and blurred vision.
If you suffer from the above, be sure to visit your GP.
ULCERS AND RECURRENT SORES: Oral cancer
When an open sore in the mouth doesn't go away within a week or two, it always warrants visiting a dentist or doctor.
Although it is common to suffer from mouth ulcers when we are run down and our immune system is suppressed, if a problem area persists, this might need to be checked.
Look out for raised sores with red or white borders as well as bleeding and numbness.
More than 30,000 people are diagnosed with oral cancer every year, most over the age of 60. C
ases are often detected late and if you are a smoker your risk is increased.
Symptoms of bruxism (tooth grinding) include unexplained jaw ache and headaches. The condition causes the teeth to look flat and worn
It is estimated that gum disease affects more than half of us.
Bleeding gums during or after brushing - as well as bad breath - can be a sign that you have gingivitis, which is inflammation of the gums.
If left untreated, a condition called periodontitis can develop - an infection of the tissues and bones that support teeth and hold them in place.
In severe cases, this can cause the bone in the jaw to decay and small spaces can open up between the gum and teeth.
Ultimately, teeth can become loose and fall out.
To lessen your chances of developing gum disease, its imperative to brush and floss teeth daily - and change your toothbrush every three months.
Visiting a specialist periodontist and hygienist can also help to combat gum problems and prevent bacteria from building up.
FLAT, WORN TEETH: Stress
Grinding your teeth at night can often be a sign of emotional or psychological stress which can manifest itself when we are asleep.
Many people are surprised when they learn that they are tooth-grinders but dentists will normally recognise this straight away by the texture and consequential flatness of the teeth.
Symptoms of bruxism, as it is called, include unexplained jaw ache and headaches.
To prevent damage to teeth, sufferers can have custom-made splints made by dental professionals to relieve the symptoms and protect teeth at night.