Chew, Speak, Smile…Diagnose?

When we think about the different systems in our body, we tend to keep them separate. Instead of viewing the body as an intricate, interconnected unit, we categorize parts into skeletal, muscular, immune, cardiovascular, digestive, and other systems. This makes our anatomy easier to understand, but it can oversimplify your body’s inner workings.

Your mouth is a microcosm that shows how interconnected your "separate" systems actually are. It does more than help you digest food. It can actually help you and your doctor diagnose diseases before other, more serious indicators arise. Use this blog to see if any of these symptoms apply to you and become aware of what your mouth is trying to tell you.

Your Breath

Bad breath is more than a smell that sends you running for mouthwash and offends your neighbours. This unpleasant smell is caused by bacteria. Once the bacteria build up, they cause inflammation and odour; the more bacteria, the stronger the odour. If you brush frequently, you can keep those levels down.

When brushing, rinsing, or flossing don't fully remove the smell, however, your breath might signal that something else is amiss.

Heartburn

Heartburn is a common but uncomfortable ailment that occurs when stomach acid travels up into your esophagus. This causes a burning sensation in your upper chest and gives you sour breath. Most people experience heartburn at some point, and it's nothing to worry about if the symptoms don't occur often.

When it happens more than twice a week, though, doctors call it gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This is uncomfortable and can damage your esophagus, so speak to your doctor if you feel this is a concern.

Kidney Failure

Kidneys remove toxins from your body. These undesirable contents normally become urine and are flushed from the body completely. However, if your breath smells fishy or ammonia-like, even after brushing, you may want to have your kidneys checked. When kidneys fail, they cannot remove toxins like they normally would. In this case, chemicals begin to accumulate throughout your body. Once they gather, their odour escapes in your breath.

Diabetes

Fruity breath sounds like it could be a good thing, but it can actually signal a serious disease – diabetes. People with this disease may suffer from a complication called ketoacidosis.

Ketoacidosis occurs when the body doesn't get the necessary amount of insulin in its blood. Your body uses insulin to convert glucose into energy. If there isn't enough insulin, the body starts converting fatty acids into energy. These acids produce chemicals that can accumulate and cause serious health problems (in addition to fruity breath).

Lung Cancer

One of the most popular presentations at the European Respiratory Society's 2013 Annual Congress discussed how "electronic nose" technology can be used to detect lung cancer, read more here. This new advancement can analyze volatile organic compounds in your breath. Researchers found this to be a reasonably reliable way to diagnose lung cancer. While the technology is still in its early stages, it is an exciting early detection method prospect that uses your breath to measure your health.

Celiac Disease

If you have noticed white streaks, brown stains, or yellowing spots on your teeth, you may suffer from celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the way you digest gluten. When people with celiac disease eat gluten products, they may complain about stomach aches because the gluten reacts poorly with their small intestine.

Since celiac disease affects the way you digest, it can prevent your teeth from getting the nutrients they need, including calcium and vitamin D. When this happens, teeth may begin to show the effects through their colour.

Sickle-Cell Anemia

If your teeth have a green tint, consider visiting your doctor to see if you have sickle-cell anemia. This type of anemia is hereditary. Its name is indicative of its effects – red blood cells take on sickle, or crescent, shapes. This inhibits your blood flow, which can cause pain and organ damage and leave you at risk for infection.

Sinus Infection

Whenever you feel a sharp pain in your tooth, it's always a good idea to make an appointment with your dentist. The pain could signal a cavity or tooth decay. Your dentist can treat those so you don't have to live with discomfort.

If you feel that pain in your upper front teeth, however, it could also signal a sinus infection. Your sinuses are just above the roots of these teeth. If your sinuses become clogged or swollen, they may apply painful pressure on your teeth.

What We Can Learn From Our Mouth

It's important to remember that bad breath and tooth discolouration do not mean that you have a disease. These are rare instances, and you don't need to be frightened every time you have morning breath or notice coffee stains on your teeth. Everyone has these at times.

This list might sound a bit frightening, but when you pay attention to what your oral system is telling you, you can act quickly. If you believe that the more severe symptoms apply to you, speak with your dentist. He or she can help relieve your concerns and get you started on treatment.
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