When you get a canker sore or have a friend quietly whisper that your breath isn’t so fresh, you tackle the problem at its source with cream or a stick of gum. But what are these mouth problems saying about your health? You might be surprised. In order to effectively treat and cure any oral health problem, it’s important to understand what’s causing it in the first place.
Top 5 Oral Health Problems
1. Bad Breath
Most people lump bad breath into a general category. You either have good breath or bad breath. Not many think about the different types of bad breath odors and what they can tell you about your health.
A sickly-sweet odor, for example, may be indicative of a condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis. This potentially life-threatening condition occurs when glucose is no longer available as an energy source to the body. If your breath smells of feces, it could indicate a bowel obstruction. A fishy, ammonia-like odor on the breath could be caused by a urinary tract infection or kidney failure.
Post-nasal drip, sinusitis, and mouth breathing can also cause a dry, “morning breath” type of smell. Not too overpowering but a bit offensive. Sinus infection sufferers may have a more powerful odor to their breath. Acid reflux is another common cause of halitosis. It can cause a constant sour or spicy scent to the breath.
The best way to get rid of your halitosis is to narrow down the cause. After all, a stick of mint gum will only freshen your breath so long as you chew it.
2. Canker Sores
Canker sores are a common and embarrassing problem for many who are only too-grateful they don’t appear on the outside of the mouth. Both canker and cold sores get a bad reputation because they’re often linked with sexually-transmitted disease. This is a misnomer. If your tongue or toothbrush often finds raw, painful sores, your condition is auto-immune. It means your body is attacking itself. Canker sores are almost always associated with a malfunctioning immune system.
Many with gastrointestinal disorders such as celiac disease, crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome are regularly afflicted with canker sores. If you’re deficient in nutrients such as vitamin B12, folic acid, zinc, and iron, it could lead to the development of canker sores.
3. Bleeding Gums
If you notice a bit of red in your sink after brushing, you may have a condition called gingivitis. Gingivitis is inflammation of the gum caused by inadequate removal of plaque and tarter build-up. Brushing too hard, improper flossing, and ill-fitting dentures can also contribute to this problem.
Sometimes, however, gingivitis is caused by a physical health condition. Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) is an autoimmune blood clotting disorder common in young women with undiagnosed celiac disease. Vitamin K deficiency, scurvy, hormonal changes related to pregnancy, and leukemia can all contribute to bleeding gums.
4. Tooth Erosion
Tooth erosion is an irreversible loss of tooth structure commonly caused by excessive acidic food consumption, bulimia, acid reflux disease, and tooth decay. Brushing too hard can also cause enamel to wear down. If you’re an extra-hard brusher, switching to a soft-bristled electric toothbrush can help curb this tendency.
5. Oral Thrush
Oral thrush (oropharyngeal candidiasis) is a condition characterized by a white, filmy substance growing on the tongue and inside of the cheeks. Ordinarily, the natural candida levels in your mouth are kept in check by your immune system. Diabetes, cancer, HIV infection, and the use of birth control pills and corticosteroids can cause oral thrush to develop.
If you suffer from these or any other chronic oral health problems, learning the cause can help you find the right cure for you. Furthermore, no matter what type of condition you’re struggling with, consuming a healthy diet is key. Tapering off junk food and replacing it with whole-food fare is your first and best step to returning to optimum health.
Jaime A. Heidel is a professional freelance writer with a passion for natural health and wellness. Her work has been seen on dozens of websites including her own, I Told You I Was Sick, which is dedicated to helping those with mystery symptoms find natural ways to heal.