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updated 5/26/2010 8:24:24 AM ET 2010-05-26T12:24:24

If the eyes are the windows to your soul, then your mouth is the gateway to your overall health. Changes in color or texture can signal that alls not well with your anatomy.

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Open wide once a week and check for these conditions.

Tongue
Look for: pale color
Might mean: You have iron- deficiency anemia, which affects one in five women. Without enough iron — which helps produce energy and maintain the immune system — your body cant make hemoglobin, the pigment in red blood cells that gives your licker its ruby color. Rx Eat plenty of leafy green veggies, meat, seafood, and beans (or take a supplement; the recommended dose is 15 milligrams). If you suspect you are anemic, see your doctor for a diagnostic blood test.


Saliva
Look for: thick, stringy saliva
Might mean: You have xerostomia (dry mouth). The likely culprit? Prescription and OTC medications (including allergy, pain, and cold meds) that change the amount of water flowing in and out of cells. Left untreated, dry mouth can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, and oral yeast infections. Rx Talk to your doc about your meds and dry mouth, then rewet your whistle.

Drink more water, chew sugarless gum, and brush with childrens toothpaste, which typically has fewer drying ingredients, says Carol Anne Murdoch-Kinch, D.D.S., Ph.D., a dentistry professor at the University of Michigan. Still parched? Spritz an OTC mouth moisturizer like Salivart ($10, drugstore.com), or have your dentist prescribe saliva stimulators like Salagen or Evoxac.

Gums
Look for: bright red color, puffiness, or small abscesses
Might mean: Gum disease — about 23 percent of women aged 30 to 54 have it. Look for blood or pus coming out of your gums, especially while brushing, says Ronald Herberman, M.D., a professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Video: The best, worst foods for your teeth

These could signal a bacterial infection. Gum disease can also be a sign of something more serious, such as diabetes. If youre pregnant, it makes you seven times more likely to deliver your baby too early, according to the American Academy of Periodontology. It appears that gum disease increases the levels of biological fluids that induce labor. Rx Try Colgate Total, the only FDA-approved paste with an antimicrobial ingredient, triclosan, that fights the bacteria that cause gum disease. See your dentist twice a year for cleanings. Your dentist may also prescribe Peridex, a mouthwash containing the antimicrobial chlorhexidine.

© 2012 Rodale Inc. All rights reserved.

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