BEYOND cleaning your teeth morning and night, how much do you actually look at your teeth?
Your gnashers – as well as your lips and mouth – can actually tell you a fair amount about what’s going on with the rest of your body, if you know the signs to look for.
According to Nyree Whitley, chief clinical officer at mydentist, it might be time to peer into your mouth a little more closely.
From the early warning signs of tooth decay to a hint that you might be pregnant, Nyree told Sun Health seven things your teeth are telling you about your health.
1. Sensitive teeth
If your teeth are feeling sensitive, it’s definitely worth speaking to your dentist, Nyree said.
This is especially important if the feeling is persistent or it doesn’t seem to triggered by one specific food or drink.
Your teeth sensitivity could be down to a range of factors, but it could be a sign of gum disease, the dentist warned.
“If this is the case, you may also be experiencing bad breath or a bad taste that doesn’t seem to shift, red or swollen gums, bleeding gums, pain when chewing, or any change in the way that your teeth fit together when you bite,” Nyree said.
Unfortunately, gum disease – also known as periodontitis – can’t be cured, but it can be managed with proper care and maintenance.
Nyree suggested you get regular dental cleanings with your local hygienist to keep on top of it.
2. Cracked lips
If you’re noticing that your lips are cracked and you’re constantly having to slather on the lip balm, it might be a sign that you have a vitamin deficiency.
Nyree explained: “Without enough vitamins or proper nutrition, your mouth will have a lower resistance to natural bacteria and could be causing issues such as cracked lips, ulcers, or inflamed gums.”
She said a lack of vitamin B may be causing your lips to crack.
Good sources include meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy and leafy greens.
3. Flat teeth
Ever peered into your mouth and thought that your teeth look curiously… flat?
It could be a by-product of dealing with high stress levels or anxiety, according to Nyree.
You’re more likely to grind your teeth in these situations and you might not even be aware of it, the dentist said, as it usually happens while you’re sleeping or you’re in deep concentration.
If you’re also getting headaches and an achy jaw, chances are you’re grinding away at your pearly whites without realising.
This painful habit can be treated with mouthguards.
In some instances, your dentist might even recommend you get Botox injections to relax the jaw and break the cycle of grinding your teeth.
4. White spots on your teeth
If you notice little white spots on your teeth, there’s no need to panic straight away as they’re not necessarily harmful.
But Nyree said they may be an early warning sign of tooth decay.
“If you notice white spots on your teeth then make sure you speak to your dentist to establish why they may be occurring, just to be on the safe side,” she advised.
Aside from decay, the white patches could be caused by fluorosis – an overexposure of fluoride to the teeth – or congenital conditions, Nyree added.
5. Round growths on your gums
It’s probably pretty alarming to see round, red growths popping up on your gums.
But these strange-looking knobs – and gums that bleed more easily than normal – might actually be the harbinger of good news, according to Nyree, as they could be an early sign of pregnancy.
These symptoms are usually down to hormonal changes, so they could also indicate you’re going through the menopause.
Fluctuating hormone levels common during pregnancy and menopause can make you more vulnerable to gingivitis, a common gum infection, Nyree explained.
“It’s perfectly treatable if found early, but if it is left untreated, then gingivitis can lead to periodontal disease, which can cause further complications such as tooth loss,” she went on.
Nyree advised you speak to your dentist if you ever notice changes to your gums.
6. Persistent ulcers
If you’re getting persistent ulcers in your mouth, in addition to to lumps that don’t go away and numbness or looseness in your teeth, this is definitely something to raise with a professional.
According to Nyree, these symptoms could be caused by mouth cancer.
“In some instances, it might show as red or white patches in the lining of the tongue and mouth, but if it’s caught early, then your dentist will be able to guide you through treatment, as well as advise on steps to alleviate any pain caused by ulcers,” she said.
“If you spot any uncomfortable changes in your mouth such as ulcers, numbness, don’t hesitate to book a check up with your dentist.”
How many times were we all told by our parents that too many sweets will rot our teeth?
Unfortunately, the risk of cavities does continue into adulthood, especially for those of us with a sweet tooth.
As Nyree put it: “It’s no secret that consuming too much sugar can have a harmful effect on our overall health, but it is also the leading cause of tooth decay in both children and adults.
“When we eat sugar, it interacts with the bacteria in plaque to produce acid, which can slowly dissolve the enamel on our teeth and create holes or cavities.”
If you just can’t stay away from sweet stuff, Nyree suggested you “try to enjoy sugar in balance and opt for unprocessed forms of sugar where possible”.
A good treat to reach for is dark chocolate, which the dentist advised you enjoy “to maintain a healthy smile”.
See what other parts of your body can reveal about your overall health, from your lips, to elbows, hair and fingers.