Everyone knows good oral care is as essential to maintaining a pretty smile as finding the perfect shade of red lipstick. But what happens when yellow teeth and bad breath are more than just unfortunate results of a cup of coffee and the day’s lunch? Oral health is a great indication of overall health, so when something isn’t going according to plan with your teeth or gums, there might be a bigger issue at play. To determine if your teeth problems are connected to bigger health issues, we tapped two top dentists to get the scoop.
Headaches or toothaches
If you’re suffering from constant headaches or toothaches that seem to come out of nowhere—a.k.a. your dentist has ruled out a cavity—it might be time to see your primary care physician. “A headache can be a sign that a patient is grinding or clenching their teeth at night, causing muscle tension, but it could also be something as serious as a neurological problem or tumor in severe cases,” explains Dr. Laura Ruof. “We always encourage patients who complain of headaches to seek the care of a physician as well as investigating any possible dental-related causes.” Other common causes of headaches are TMJ disorders, beginning signs of tumors of the head and neck, sinus infections, and dehydration, add Dr. Pia Lieb. Bottom line: See your doc to help find the cause of your pain!
If you can safely rule out that burrito from lunch as the source of your unpleasant breath (hey, it happens), you’d be wise to call your dentist STAT to make sure there are not lurking issues. “Bad breath can be dental decay, infection, or even a digestive issue,” explains Dr. Ruof. “Poor oral hygiene is a major cause of bad breath. Food particles that are not removed after eating start to break down and are eaten by the harmful bacteria in our mouths, causing smell, acid production, and decay.” Best bet? Brush, floss, and reach for a Tic-Tac, then call your dentist if things don’t get better.
Cuts or sores
Cuts and scraps can happen to anyone. But if yours still hasn’t resolved itself in 7-10 days, it might be time to see the doc. “Sores can be apthous ulcers (canker sores), which are not contagious, are painful, but also resolve in about a week,” explains Dr. Ruof. “Sores can also be Herpes, which are contagious, and we have various ways of treating. There are also many types of soft tissue disease that can be a sign of other medical issues, including oral cancer, which is why communication between dentist and physician is critical.”
Red, sore gums
Hate to break it to you, but red, sore gums typically stem from inflammation and poor oral hygiene. However according to Dr. Lieb, pregnancy and allergies are other possible causes, adding advanced periodontal disease has now even been related to heart disease. Get regular dental cleanings and brush and floss daily to reduce inflammation, but of course, visit your dentist just to make sure all is healthy!
Although they might be unsightly, yellow teeth are actually not that bad when it comes to indicators of health. According to Dr. Lieb, yellowing is often times based on genetics, caused by antibiotic use a child or in vitro, or even the result of heavy consumption of colored foods or beverages. Thankfully, there are in-office and at-home products you can use to help banish the stain. Treatments like Philips Zoom WhiteSpeed are can be done by a dental professional and boast making teeth up to eight shades whiter, while DenTek Professional Whitening Polisher helps maintain those pearly whites in just three minutes daily at home.
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