How Dental Exams Can Reveal Liver Disorders

Symptoms of liver disease often cause abdominal pain, appetite loss, itching, dark urine, nausea, and weakness. It can be caused by viral infections, certain medications, and excessive alcohol intake. Liver disease can also cause changes inside your oral cavity. Here are some signs of liver disease a general dentist may discover during your examination.

Oral Mucosal Color Changes

Liver disease can cause high bilirubin levels. When this happens, your skin and the whites of your eyes may become jaundiced, or yellow. The oral mucosa of your mouth, including your gums, insides of your cheeks, tongue, and floor of your mouth may also take on a yellowish tinge.

In addition to oral jaundice, your oral mucosa may also be paler than normal. This is because certain types of liver disorders can cause a low platelet count. When this happens, you may experience abnormal bleeding that can cause anemia.

If you have anemia, both your skin and the inside of your mouth can look pale. Platelet disorders from liver disease can also cause tiny purple or red dots to appear in your mouth. These dots are called petechiae and can also develop on your arms, abdomen, and legs.

Bleeding Gums

Liver disease can also increase your risk of bleeding gums as a result of decreased platelet aggregation. Your general dentist may notice that your gums bleed very easily during an examination with dental probing instruments.

Getting your teeth cleaned can also trigger an episode of bleeding if you have liver disease. It is important to note that bleeding gums are very common and do not usually indicate the presence of liver dysfunction. However, if your gums bleed spontaneously or if the bleeding is profuse and hard to stop, see your primary care doctor for a checkup.

Liver disease-related bleeding gums can also be caused by the medications you take to manage your liver disease. In addition, if your liver problems are caused by alcoholism, your gums may bleed since alcohol can impair proper blood clotting. If you have liver disease, tell your general dentist and hygienist so that they can be extra gentle during examinations and teeth cleanings.

If you develop any of the above signs and symptoms of liver disease, see both your primary care physician and your general dentist. When you work with both of these healthcare professionals, you can better manage your liver disease and enjoy better oral health.