Healthy Body, Healthy Mouth
Quite a few patients have asked for additional information on the relationship of the mouth to the entire body. Yes, they are related and so much more than was first recognized.
The Mouth – Love It, Don’t Leave It:
The mouth: Lovers kiss with it, babies coo with it, fighters curl it in rage, winners lift it up in victory, and the doctor looks into it. Approximately 20% of visits to the doctor are because of mouth or throat complaints. But by peering into the mouth the doctor may discover more than a strep infection or a canker sore.
It is a truism in medical circles that the mouth is the mirror of the body. “The mouth is affected by many bodily processes,” says Jerome Goldstein, M.D., (Executive VP of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery). Disorders in the mouth may signal their presence by oral symptoms. Gums that have grown over the teeth may mean a patient has leukemia. A red or furry tongue may indicate scarlet fever; a tongue covered with brownish sores, typhoid fever; and a pale, smooth glossy tongue, pernicious anemia. A fine black line that appears on the gums is an important diagnostic sign of chronic lead poisoning, while spongy gums signal chronic mercury poisoning.
In addition, a doctor can also find diagnostic clues to Addison’s disease (a disease of the adrenal glands that afflicted the late President John F. Kennedy), diabetes mellitus, vitamin B deficiency, scurvy, Sjogren’s syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and multiple sclerosis by examining the oral cavity. Foul breath may indicate a lung abscess. Pain in the jaw may mean a patient is suffering from angina. And an extended tongue that bends to one side may indicate a stroke. “The mouth is a valuable reflection of what’s going on elsewhere in the body,” says Goldstein.
Viruses and Infections
The most common causes of sore throats are viral illnesses (such as the “flu,” the “common cold,” or mononucleosis) or bacteria (such as Streptococcus). A viral sore throat can be a symptom of measles, chicken pox, or whooping cough. Antibiotics can be used to treat bacterial infections but have no effect against sore throats caused by viral illness. The body heals itself of a viral infection by building up antibodies that destroy the virus.
Bacterial infections in the nose and sinuses can cause sore throats because mucus drains down into the throat, carrying the infection with it. One of the more serious kinds of bacterial infection is caused by Streptococcus bacteria. As many as 1 out of l0 Americans develops “strep throat” every year. Complications of streptococcal infections include tonsillitis, pneumonia, scarlet fever, and ear infections. A strep test detects an infection in about 15 minutes rather than the 24 hours usually required for a throat culture. Antibiotics can be administered if the test results are positive.
Role of Emotions
Not only does the mouth reflect what is happening elsewhere in the body, but changing the posture of the mouth can elicit bodily changes. Even a mere smile or frown can affect the nervous system. Researchers from the University of Michigan and the University of California have shown that lifting the corners of the lips in a smile or puckering the lips in a frown can affect the temperature of the blood flowing to the brain and change heart and breath rate.
Although people may pay little heed to their mouths except when something goes wrong, the importance of the mouth cannot be underestimated. Its condition provides clues to disease elsewhere in the body, and its posturings can affect a person’s emotions so that just as the eyes are a window to the soul, so the mouth is a mirror of the body.
Please click on the below link for additional information on the mouth / body relationship (click on each topic to discover news and information that may be vital to your well-being).
Dr. Faith Bult
Credits: Judy Folkenberg, FDA Consumer Magazine