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Diseases that Affect Your Mouth 

It may seem like oral health is separate from your total body health, but they are really connected. In fact, certain health conditions have a direct effect on the health of your mouth. Sometimes it’s the illness that affects mouth health, and sometimes it’s a treatment.

You’ll need to take more careful care of your mouth if you have: 

  • Diabetes. People with diabetes have a higher risk of infections in the mouth from bacteria, viruses, yeast, and fungi. High sugar levels in saliva can help cause bacteria to grow in the mouth. People with trouble controlling their blood sugar have a higher risk of severe gum disease and tooth loss. Diabetes can also cause less saliva to flow, which puts you at risk for gum disease and tooth decay. It is a two-way street, because people with uncontrolled gum disease can make control of the diabetes more difficult.

  • Cancer. Treatment for cancer can cause many oral health problems, such as bleeding, sores, and infections from yeast, fungus, or bacteria. It can also cause dry mouth, where there isn’t enough saliva in the mouth. Saliva helps prevents infection, gum disease, and tooth decay. Dry mouth puts you at higher risk for these problems. The inside of the mouth can also become inflamed and sore (oral mucositis). This can cause pain and difficulty eating, tasting, swallowing, or speaking.                                                                                                                                                                 

  • HIV/AIDS. The virus puts you at risk for dental decay, gum disease, and mouth infections, like oral warts, yeast infections, sores and blisters. You’re also at risk for oral hairy leukoplakia, a white fuzzy growth on the tongue or insides of the cheeks or lips. The medications used for treatment can cause dry mouth, which raises the risk of tooth decay, severe gum disease, and infections in the mouth. Conversely, infections in the mouth can make controlling HIV/AIDS more difficult.

  • Hyperthyroidism. People with overactive thyroid have a higher risk of tooth decay and severe gum disease. They also have a risk of thinning of the bones (osteoporosis) in the jaw that help hold the teeth in place. And some people have burning mouth syndrome, a condition where the lips, tongue, or mouth feels hot 

  • Sjögren’s syndrome. With this condition, salivary glands don’t work normally, which causes dry mouth. This puts people with Sjögren’s syndrome at a higher risk of tooth decay, gum disease, and oral infections.

  • Anemia. If a person has had blood loss or a health condition that destroys red blood cells, this causes anemia. With anemia, not having enough blood cells means the tissues of the body don’t get enough oxygen. In the mouth, this may help lead to gum disease.                                                                                                                                          

  • Other conditions. Allergies, high blood pressure, depression can all have an effect on oral health. How? Medicines used to treat these conditions –- such as some antihistamines, diuretics, and antidepressants –- can cause dry mouth. Surgery or strong pain from injury or other causes can also affect your mouth health. This is because some narcotic pain medications also cause dry mouth.

Taking Charge of Your Health

If you have any of these health conditions, work with your dental care providers to make sure your mouth stays healthy. You’ll need to take extra care to prevent problems. Take good care of your teeth and gums by brushing and flossing regularly. You also may need to see your dentist more often for checkups and cleanings. He or she can help keep your teeth and gums healthy, and spot problems such as tooth decay early. Tell your dentist about any symptoms of oral health problems you have, such as sores, white patches, pain, or other problems in your mouth. Together you can keep your mouth healthy.

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