Sure, your breath may remind you about the garlic you ate at lunch. But that’s not all your mouth can tell you: Problems with your gums, teeth, and tongue can hint at health concerns deeper in the body, says Betty Haberkamp, DDS, a dentist at the Cleveland Clinic. Here are four oral signs you should see your doctor or your dentist.

If you suddenly have a bunch of cavities – It might mean: Diabetes

Assuming you’re not hooked on soda or taking any new medications, the tooth decay could be a sign that your body is having trouble processing glucose. When that happens, the sugar can build up in saliva and spur the growth of cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth. You might also feel some tooth pain, especially after eating something sweet, hot, or cold.

If your teeth are “wearing away – It might mean: Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Heartburn can happen to anyone. But if you’re experiencing it more than twice a week for a few weeks in a row, you may have GERD, a condition in which stomach acids leaks into the esophagus. While some people experience a “burning” sensation in their chest or throat, others don’t experience any symptoms at all.

When stomach acid reaches the mouth, it can wear away the enamel on your teeth. “Erosion from GERD is typically on the tongue side of the teeth,” says Haberkamp.  “A person may not notice this, since it may occur slowly, but a dentist would notice on a periodic exam

If your gums bleed when you brush – It might mean: Gingivitis

Unless you just started flossing your teeth or you’re brushing too hard, blood in the sink may indicate inflammation of your gum tissue caused by plaque buildup along the gum line. Left untreated, gingivitis can lead to more serious periodontitis, in which the gums recede from the teeth and form pockets that get infected.



You may not realize the vital role potassium plays in the body. Potassium aids in muscle contraction, fluid regulation, and mineral balance. What’s more, potassium blunts the effects of excessive sodium consumption—a problem most Americans have. The average U.S. adult takes in 3,400 milligrams of salt per day, nearly 50% more than the recommended upper limit of 2,300 milligrams. A potassium-rich diet helps the body flush out sodium. It also helps relax blood vessel walls and, in turn, lower blood pressure.

Increasing your potassium intake while reducing your sodium intake can slash your stroke risk by 21%, and may also lower your odds of  heart disease.

Upping your intake of whole fruits and vegetables will help you hit the expert-recommended 4,700 milligrams of potassium a day. You should also check in with your doctor if you suspect you need more potassium. Here are the biggest signs you’re running low:

You’re always tired – If you can’t seem to rest enough and your energy levels are low, you may be potassium deficient, says Blake. “Every cell in your body needs the right amount of potassium to function,” she explains. “If you are increasingly exhausted and know you are getting enough sleep, potassium might be the cause.” (That said, other issues with your diet, stress, or sleep deprivation can also leave you feeling chronically sluggish, so you shouldn’t assume a potassium deficiency is the culprit.)

You have muscle weakness or cramping – Potassium plays a key role in smooth muscle contraction, both in the heart and across the entire body. So when levels are low, you might experience “aches and spasms” throughout the day or while exercising, says Blake.

You feel faint, dizzy, or tingly – Potassium can wax and wane throughout the day, and a large drop can slow your heartbeat, making you feel like you’re going to pass out. “This is not common, and many other factors can be the cause, but it’s important to see your doctor if you experience this,” Blake says. Tingling arms or legs is another signal you shouldn’t ignore.

You have high blood pressure or palpitations – Without enough potassium, blood vessel walls can become constricted, which results in hypertension, says Blake. Also watch out for heart palpitations; the heart muscle has more difficulty pumping when the sodium-potassium balance is out of whack.

You’re bloated all the time – When you’re low on potassium, your body struggles to regulate its sodium levels, and can cause salt-induced bloating.



Many people don’t realize they’re having a stroke when it happens to them, says research from the University of Oxford. The new study highlights the importance of getting to the hospital quickly after a stroke, and points out an important symptom—vision loss—that’s often overlooked in public health campaigns.

Stroke Symptoms:  The FAST acronym—which stands for Face, Arm, Speech, Time—has been touted by experts as a way to remember important symptoms of stroke and the response that should be taken. According to the American Stroke Association, symptoms of stroke include face drooping, arm weakness, and speech difficulties. And because time is of the essence, anyone with symptoms should get to a hospital right away.

In a British study of people who had had a transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as a mini-stroke, the authors noted that nearly a third of participants reported a reduction or loss of vision during their episodes—something that’s not always considered an obvious sign of stroke. For about 20 percent of participants, in fact, vision problems were the only symptom. Of that group, not a single person was aware they were having a stroke.

Vision symptoms should be included in patient education and efforts to raise awareness about stroke symptoms and rapid action may be more appropriate; hence the acronym FASTER (Face, Arm, Speech, Time, Eyes, React) may be better.