Around 12% of us suffer from extreme dental anxiety. In fact, the British Dental Association says that 25% of the British population suffer from some sort of anxiety before visiting the dentist.
The reality is that there are worse things in life than trips to the dentist: liver disease and diabetes being some of them. The good news is that your oral health can give the professionals an indication of your inner bodily workings.
Whether you suffer bad breath, yellowing teeth or are plagued by ulcers, dental expert Dr Sameer Patel from Elleven clinic offers an insight into what's really going on inside your mouth:
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 but will not have any impact on the colour of the existing surface of the teeth.
Flat, Worn Teeth: Stress
Grinding your teeth (bruxism) 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 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.
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 and 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 local 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. Cases are often detected late and if you are a smoker your risk is increased.
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Bleeding Gums: Gingivitis
It is estimated that gum disease affects more than half of all adults in the UK; bleeding gums during or after brushing as well as bad breath can be a sign that you have gingivitis.
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 your jaw to decay and small spaces can open up between the gum and teeth.
Ultimately this can cause your teeth to become loose and eventually fall out. To lessen your chances of developing gum disease it is imperative to brush and floss teeth daily whilst changing your toothbrush every three months. Visiting a specialist periodontist and hygienist can also help to combat gum problems and prevent bacteria from building up.
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 which 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.