The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute reports anemia as the leading blood disorder in the United States, affecting over 3 million people. Anemia results from an insufficient number of red blood cells to carry oxygen and vitamins through the body or from poorly functioning red blood cells.
Symptoms of anemia include tiredness, shortness of breath, dizziness, palpitations (fast or abnormal heart rhythm), and headaches. If left untreated, anemia can impact your dental health by weakening teeth, leaving them prone to decay. The gums are also more likely to become infected due to a lack of vitamins.
Anemia’s symptoms can often mimic other illnesses such as hypoglycemia or fibromyalgia. In some cases, the signs of anemia may be mistaken for stress or exhaustion. To rule out other conditions, your doctor will order a simple blood test to determine hemoglobin levels in your blood.
Hemoglobin is a high-iron protein found in red blood cells. As blood passes through your lungs, hemoglobin picks up oxygen, transporting it throughout your body. A healthy hemoglobin level for men is 14.0 gm/dl and 12.3 gm/dl for women. Blood test results lower than this indicate anemia.
How Anemia Affects Dental Health
The form of anemia that most often affects dental health is iron deficiency anemia. This means your body doesn’t have enough iron to make the hemoglobin needed to carry oxygen throughout your body.
In some cases, iron deficiency anemia results from poor absorption of dietary iron. Rapid blood loss due to trauma also causes anemia. A more common cause of anemia is an ongoing loss of small amounts of blood, such as during a woman’s menstrual cycle or chronic bowel disorders. If left untreated, iron deficiency anemia affects oral health.
A condition known as anemia gums causes gums to become pale and whitish. A lack of blood flow and oxygen can cause the gums to deteriorate or become infected, and the connective tissue holding the teeth in place becomes loose, potentially leading to tooth loss.
Glossitis is an inflammation of the tongue caused by anemia. This condition causes the tongue to become swollen, glazed, and tender to the touch. It can cause issues with breathing, eating, and speaking.
More serious effects on your dental health resulting from anemia can include an increase in cavities or even the gum diseases gingivitis or periodontitis. Regular visits to your dentist can prevent many of these problems before they occur.
Prevention and Treatment of Anemia
Barring any underlying physical conditions, a healthy, well-balanced diet rich in folic acid, vitamin B12, and iron can help prevent anemia. Ensure you get enough vitamin C in your diet to aid in the absorption of dietary iron.
After being diagnosed with anemia, your doctor may prescribe oral iron supplements and vitamin C to aid in iron absorption. They may also suggest dietary changes such as the addition of leafy green vegetables like spinach, arugula, or kale. Adding lentils to your diet will also increase your iron intake.
Schedule Your Next Dental Health Check-Up Today
Monitor your oral health with regular check-ups. Contact Blue Island Smiles today at (708) 371-3844. Our dental staff can perform a thorough exam and professional cleaning and suggest treatments to address oral health complications due to anemia.