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Iron Deficiency, Anemia and Your Oral Health

September 25, 2012

You would be surprised how much your teeth reveal about your health and how your dentist can be pivotal in pointing out serious illness based on what they see in your checkup.  Ailments such as diabetes, osteoporosis, and even heart disease can be indicated by high rates of periodontal disease, tooth loss, pericoronitis.  Another ailment your dentist can spot is iron deficiency.  An iron deficiency does not just affect your teeth; it can also affect your mouth and throat. In advanced cases, iron deficiency can lead to anemia.

Iron is a mineral and an essential part of our cells. “The major reason we need it is that it helps to transport oxygen throughout the body,” says Paul Thomas, EdD, RD, in an article for WebMD.  Iron performs this function by being part of the component hemoglobin.  A lack of iron means your body cannot produce enough healthy red blood cells.  Without enough red blood cells, the oxygenation of your body becomes compromised and less efficient.  This lack of red blood cells is called anemia.

Iron has other important functions in the body.  “Iron is also necessary to maintain healthy cells, skin, hair, and nails,” says Elaine Chottiner, MD, clinical assistant professor and director of General Hematology Clinics at the University of Michigan Medical Center.[1]

When iron is deficient in the body, dentists often see sores at the corners of the mouth, reduced sized of taste buds, sore tongues, and scarring of the throat and esophagus.  Your dentist may ask if you are experiencing these common iron deficiency symptoms:

  • Burning sensation in the mouth and tongue
  • Fungal infections in the mouth
  • Tongue redness and swelling
  • Oral sores and pale oral tissues[2]

If this deficiency progresses to anemia, the patient will likely also suffer from fatigue and a compromised immune system.  As the body acts as a whole, any part that suffers affects more than just that localized area.  A compromised immune system allows for you to get sick faster and easier than when you are at optimal health.  For example, skipping your nightly flossing due to fatigue allows bacteria buildup on the teeth and gums.  Bacteria leads to illness – which your compromised immune system is not able to fight effectively.

Your mouth – and whole body – will thank you for making sure your iron levels stay high.  Fortunately it is easy to get an abundance of iron from food.  In fact, now you have a good reason to eat chocolate!  “Chocolate is showing more and more health benefits and dark chocolate is coming into vogue,” states an article on the website HealthAliciousNess. “In the case of iron it is pure cocoa powder without any cocoa fat, milk, or sugar that provides the most iron with 36mg in a 100g serving, or 200% of the DV. That is 1.8mg of iron per tablespoon of cocoa powder, or 10% of the DV. Unsweetened baking chocolate provides 17.4mg per 100g (97% DV), or 23mg (128% DV) per grated cup. Most sweetened milk chocolates will provide around 2.4mg per 100g (13% DV), or 1mg (6% DV) of iron in an average 1.5 ounce bar.”[3]  Other iron packed foods include liver, shellfish and caviar.  There are many vegetarian and vegan options for iron as well, including:  roasted pumpkin, sesame and squash seeds; tahini, sunflower seeds, dried apricots, lentils, whole wheat bread, spinach, broccoli and tofu.

With such a wide variety of delicious iron-rich foods available, it is easy to get the iron you need for optimal dental health.  Take the time to include iron-rich foods in your meals to stave off iron deficiency and anemia.  Your mouth and your dentist will thank you.

Guest Author: Atlanta Dental Spa is the premiere place in Atlanta for General and Cosmetic Dentistry. Our doctors are world-class, award-winning dentists who apply their industry-leading expertise in a relaxing spa like environment. 3189 Maple Dr NE Atlanta, GA 30305 | 404-816-2230.

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