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mouth bacteriaThe mouth can tell you a lot about your health. There may be no connection between the loss of a tooth and that of a heart attack, but what goes on in the mouth could be an indicator of a few diseases.

The mouth is filled with bacteria, and most of the time we cohabitate without a worry, but bacteria that starts behaving badly, can accumulate in the gum pockets and can cause swelling of the gums, bleeding gums, and bone loss which can cause your teeth to fall out.

A person, who suffers from periodontal disease or gingivitis, can have up to 500 different bacterial species present in their bloodstream, and this could be worrisome. When the bacteria enter the small blood vessels, it can travel to other parts of the body and release the toxins there. This could cause inflammation to occur and it can attack the arteries and the organs. Gum disease and tooth loss are considered to be a harbinger for bacterial pneumonia, diabetes, kidney disease and even a stroke. Periodontal bacteria have been detected in the mouths as well as in the amniotic fluid of woman who have had the experience of premature labour, miscarriages and can even contribute to low-birth weight.

Breath testing

A person’s breath can be very telling too. 90% or more of the time, halitosis emanates from bacteria that live in the gum pockets, under dentures and on the tongue’s surface. Not only is bad breath extremely unpleasant for those who come into close contact with it, it could also be a clue to other medical conditions.

Cancers like oral cancer, lung cancer and some leukaemia’s as well as dry mouth syndromes such as Sjögren’s syndrome can cause bacterial overgrowth and this contributes to bad breath. Some systemic diseases even produce distinct chemical odours:

• A sweet or a fruity smell could indicate uncontrolled diabetes
• Mousy ammonia could be an indication of liver disease
• A fishy or urine-like odour could indicate chronic kidney failure
• And a fecal smell could indicate intestinal blockage

If you want to know if your breath smells, ask a friend who will be honest with you, or you could lick your hand and then smell it.

Your tongue could be a tip-off too

Some changes on the tongue could also be a tip-off to disease. If a tongue is pale, smooth, flattened and occasionally tender, it could indicate an iron or a vitamin B12 deficiency, a hallmark of a common blood disorder, or iron deficiency anaemia. Someone suffering from Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis could also notice some tiny ulcers. If the tongue looks similar to that of a geographic map, with dark and light areas, it could be an indication of an autoimmune disorder like psoriasis or discoid lupus erythematosus. If the tongue has patches of white it could indicate thrush, an overgrowth of the yeast Candida, which could indicate diabetes. If the tongue is strawberry red in colour and is swollen with a white coating and some big red bumps, it could be a symptom of Kawasaki disease.

What do one’s teeth tell us?

If teeth have hairline cracks in them, it could be due to tooth-grinding, bruxism which is a sleep disorder, or it could be due to mental stress. A person suffering from bulimia will show enamel loss on their front teeth which is caused from the stomach acid from repeated vomiting.

Keep up that oral hygiene

A good oral hygiene and fixing any dental and gum problems before they get out of hand is the key to keeping a mouth healthy. People with declining dexterity might need to make some modifications that ensures good oral care continues. Electric toothbrushes, vibrating gum massagers and dental water jets could help. It is extremely important to visit your dentist regularly if you are planning to become pregnant, or if you are facing a course of chemotherapy. The reason being that they can reduce the immunity against oral bacteria and can cause mouth sores.

Here are some helpful tips for halitosis, gums and tooth care

• Be aware of any changes in your oral health, and have it checked out
• Brush in the mornings, in the evenings and after every meal with a soft bristled toothbrush
• To remove odour causing bacteria from the tongue, use a tongue scraper to scrape of the bacterial layer on the tongue’s surface
• Use a antiseptic oral rinse
• Floss daily between each tooth and between the tooth and gum area. But be gentle, you don’t want to damage your gums
• Drink plenty of water throughout the day, and breath through your nose and not your mouth
• Do not smoke or go near someone smoking (yes, it can cause smokers breath too)
• Try chewing leaves like green cardamom, cloves, parsley, guava peels and gum mastic for breath control.
• Regular dental visits are a must.