For many people, their oral health only acts as a barometer of whether or not they brush and floss regularly. However, your oral health can actually tell you a lot more about what’s going on with your overall health if you know how to read the signs.

When you consider that the mouth acts as a gateway to the body, it’s not surprising to realize that one of the first symptoms of a more serious underlying condition may manifest as an oral health problem. In recent years, researchers have dedicated more time exploring this connection, and have begun to gain a better understanding of what these different symptoms can point to.

Gum Disease

When it comes to the health of our bodies, no part gets ignored more frequently than our oral health.  Approximately 75 percent of adults in the U.S. suffer from some type of gum disease, which is caused by a buildup of bacteria in the mouth and ranks as the number one cause of tooth loss. Despite this overwhelming number, the majority of Americans probably don’t consider gum disease a serious medical condition. However, gum disease is an infection that can spread throughout your entire mouth. If an infection the same size as what gum disease can cause were to manifest on an arm or leg, you’d rush to the hospital for treatment.

The bacteria that causes gum disease can do more damage to the health of your body than just the loss of a few teeth. Mouth bacteria can also cause a variety of other serious medical conditions that can range from heart disease to diabetes. Researchers believe that bacteria from the mouth can enter the blood stream, which causes inflammatory reactions elsewhere in the body. Inflammation can cause a number of serious conditions, including arthritis, heart disease, and cancer. By not taking care of gum disease at an early stage, you might be setting your body up for a more serious problem later on down the road.


Perhaps no condition better exemplifies the mouth body connection than diabetes, a disease that causes an imbalance in an individual’s blood sugar levels. Individuals who struggle to keep down their blood sugar levels have a higher risk of developing gum disease. Individuals with gum disease have a harder time managing their blood sugar levels. So in other words, if you have trouble managing your diabetes you’re more likely to develop gum disease, which in turn makes it more difficult for you to manage your diabetes.

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth occurs when your body no longer produces enough saliva to retain moisture in the mouth. Without saliva, you’ll have a hard time chewing, swallowing, and even talking. While a number of fairly common conditions can cause dry mouth, including taking certain medications and wearing ill-fitting dentures, dry mouth can also be a sign of a more serious condition called Sjogren’s syndrome. An autoimmune disease, Sjogren’s causes the immune system to attack saliva ducts and tear glands in the body, which results in chronic dry mouth and dry eyes.

However, like all autoimmune diseases, Sjogren’s can progressively get worse, and cause debilitating joint pain and fatigue, blurred vision, frequent mouth infections, and occasionally lymphoma.

Gum Discoloration

A healthy set of gums should appear bright pink, and not red or swollen. Occasionally, gums can become sore and pale in color, which could indicate that you’re suffering from anemia. Generally the result of an iron deficiency, anemia causes the body to produce too few healthy red blood cells. Without enough red blood cells, your system can’t successfully transport enough oxygen throughout all of the organs in the body. Anemia can also cause fatigue, feelings of sluggishness, and swelling of the tongue.

Tooth Loss

While tooth loss is commonly associated with gum disease, it can also be the result of a variety of other serious conditions. Research has indicated that individuals who suffer from tooth loss have a higher risk of developing a kidney disease. Tooth loss can also be a early sign of osteoporosis, a disease that causes bone structures throughout the body to become weak and brittle.