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Oral Health Predicts General Health

Updated on November 20, 2012

Healthy Teeth Say Alot About Overall Health


I recalled western movies as a kid where the price and sale of a horse was dependent upon the inspection of its oral health. This was done for good reason and still practiced today were the health of any mammals mouth is a good indicator of overall health. The beauty of being mindful of this information, you don’t have to be a doctor or dentist to understand when self-inspecting your own mouth if something does not appear or feel normal. Any abnormal signs and symptoms should be something to monitor for the short-term. However, if oral abnormalities don’t clear within a short period of time get a dental checkup. My rule of thumb is 3-7 days if the discomfort or abnormality does not subside, but instead appears to be worsening.

Let’s start at the gums. They should appear reddish or coral pink and should not be pale, purple or dark red. And the gums around each tooth should be of smooth yet firm membrane tissue that equally fills the space between each tooth and covers the lining of your jaw bone where the tooth’s roots reside inside the jaw bone. If a healthy gum line does not appear to be the case upon examination in the mirror, you could lack certain vitamins and minerals within the diet, good dental hygiene, etc. If the health and integrity of the gums and tongue, including teeth is not maintained, then risk of germ pathogens can also spread illness and disease anywhere throughout the body. And if you have a chronic oral condition that’s gone too long without treatment you risk disease (gingivitis-periodontal “gum” disease, tooth decay, cancer etc.) that’s capable of spreading throughout the body.

Next, let’s look at the basic foundation of your teeth. Your teeth are not cemented into the jaw bone like a mortared building foundation. Instead they are held in the jaw bone by-way of thin strands of live connective tissue (periodontal ligaments). These ligaments allow your teeth to move under pressure when chewing in order to prevent cracking or tooth loss under normal wear and tear. It is the health of these ligaments that hold the teeth in place in the jaw socket and surrounding gum lines that is indicative of good dental hygiene and healthy tissue. And when your teeth begin to crack and fall out, this should be of great concern for the health of these unseen tissue ligaments.

Also when the gum lines recede due to poor dental hygiene this means that germs and bacteria can attack the tooth under the gum line area and then can reach the root of the tooth and periodontal tooth ligaments. When too many of these ligaments are weakened and the root system is under attack, not only are the teeth at risk, but also the jaw bone and cranial cavities where harmful germ pathogens can enter the body.

This is why even today a person buying a horse looks at the health of the horse’s gum’s and teeth. If teeth are missing and/or gum line appears unhealthy, the value of the horse is less than a horse with a full set of healthy teeth and gums. This is because one could make the comparison; the more teeth missing likely correlate to a shortened life span, or a life that will require more cost to make preventative dental-health repairs.

Now let’s consider the tongue. Just like the teeth and gums, the tongue is no different in predicting internal health to varying degrees. The tongue should be reddish pink, with healthy appearing papillae (uniform bumps and valley’s on tongue surface) and not appear to be overly smooth, or coated with some discolored film. After the gums the tongue is the next important area of oral health inspection and is the second most likely area for bacteria, germs and pathogens to reside and infiltrate the internal body. It is when germs and bacteria are also able to find their way into our circulatory systems through damaged tissues (e.g., mouth tongue-gum sores etc.) we should be greatly concerned.

Changes within the tongues appearance could occur from the internal body or external environment and “maybe” indicative of health problems. For example a swollen tongue could be the result of general infection, medications, strep throat, allergies, Leukemia, pituitary gland tumor, Hypothyroidism, Lymphangioma. Or the swollen tongue could simply widen on its own from one that has no teeth, or wears dentures. But if your tongue is severely swollen you could also have an anemia problem or vitamin B-12 deficiency. In any case a swollen tongue is caused from an imbalance of nutrients or an immune reaction attempting to resolve an infection, or correct a serious disease.

If your tongue appears white, this could be simply the result of dehydration. Or if you smoke or drink alcohol the same condition of your tongue can be the cause of this condition. If your tongue appears overly red (red tongue) this is a warning sign of nutritional deficiencies. Be sure to focus on balancing essential food groups into your diet (especially fruits, vegetables and other fiber sources).

It should also be noted too much stress and hormonal changes can cause a harmless condition called geographical tongue. This is where bright red patches scattered on top of the tongue appears map like often associated with some burning sensation. This is something that can come and go, but if you experience a taste problem; this could also be caused by certain medications or nerve damage. Although geographical tongue may be considered harmless, it is the psychosomatic (mind/body) stress connection (less hormonal) where anxiety and depression can cause other illness that should be of concern. Geographical tongue should be a warning sign indicator that if not attended to can make the body ill. And if the mind or body is ill too long as noted by geographical tongue, it is possible chronic disease could follow.

The best prevention if you have any of these oral signs and symptoms is to set up an appointment with a dentist to better understand the health of your teeth, gums and tongue which directly relates to the internal health of your body.

For centuries and even today veterinarians and equestrians determine productivity, health and longevity of a horse’s worth by equine oral inspection. Humans should take away a huge teaching point here. That is, when your body begins to become unhealthy, it will likely present the first signs and symptoms of ill-health appearing first through unhealthy gums and/or tongue and teeth.

There are other outwardly and obvious appearance attributes that can determine overall good health, i.e., unhealthy hair, skin, toenails and eyes. However, there is nothing more reveling of our overall good health than can be seen through a daily oral inspection.


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