LIVETODAY, FOR TOMORROW
Your mouth, the window to your health
Flossing, brushing and rinsing aren’t just to maintain your 100-watt smile; these acts also protect your overall health. Bleeding gums, teeth discolouration and sores are red flags, so take heed!
Your teeth can offer important health cues that will tell you whether you need to have your oral health checked out. Your mouth hosts more bacteria than you can imagine and can easily cause infections in parts of your body when your immune system is at a low.
If there is too much bacteria in your mouth, it can build up on your teeth and make your gums prone to infection. This signals your immune system to defend your mouth against infection and your gums become inflamed. This can cause periodontitis which can affect the rest of your body.
Pay attention to anything unusual or uncomfortable about your oral health.
- Pale or bleeding gums could suggest a blood disorder.
- Bumps, ulcers or sores in your mouth are known as oral lesions. These could suggest early signs of HIV.
- Bone loss occurs when more bone is reabsorbed than is formed by your body and if you experience it in your jaw, it could be a sign of skeletal osteoporosis (decreased bone mass).
- Changes in tooth appearance (shape and colour) could indicate bulimia or anorexia.
Bad breath, bad health
We’ve all had a bout of smelly breath, but chronic bad breath could indicate serious health problems.
- Along with sneezing and a runny nose, bad breath could also be an indicator of allergies. Congestion may cause you to breathe with your mouth open, which in turn causes dry mouth and bad breath. Mucus is a breeding ground for germs and this also results in bad breath.
- If you wear braces, have a tongue piercing or any other dental appliance, you may suffer from candida albicans, which is the growth of yeast on your tongue. The yeast is caused when there is an excessive amount of the candida bacteria in your mouth – and this causes bad breath.
- Acid reflux causes a backward flow of stomach acid into your oesophagus (the tube that connects the throat and stomach). The excess of acids that are digested into the oesophagus and mouth cavity can make it difficult for the mouth cavity to stay clean. The regurgitated sour liquids caused by this can cause bad breath.
Protect your mouth, protect yourself
- Eat a healthy diet and avoid excessive amounts of sugary treats.
- Brush your teeth at least twice daily with fluoride toothpaste.
- Remember to replace your toothbrush every two to three months.
- Floss every day and use a mouth-wash if possible.
- Avoid using tobacco products such as cigarettes.
- Make regular appointments with your dentist to keep your oral health in check.
Dr Kola-Adam, General practitioner, Johannesburg, 2016
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