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Dental Problems Can Tell You About Your Health

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.

You might have type 2 diabetes:

Severe gum disease, a.k.a 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% of those with mild to moderate gum disease and 8.5% with no gum disease. What's the connection? People with diabetes are more susceptible to contracting infections, according to the American Academy of Periodontology.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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% 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.

by Rachael Schultz

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