It’s easy to assume that a visit to the dentist is all about making sure that your teeth look clean, white and straight, but the truth of the matter is that keeping your gums healthy is every bit as important. Gum disease is as threatening to oral health as dental decay and, if not treated properly, can be just as devastating. Gum diseases occur when the bacteria present in plaque, the clear, sticky film which coats the teeth, attack the gums and cause them to become swollen, painful and inflamed. The signs of the problem are that the gums will look inflamed, may feel tender to the touch and will probably bleed when you clean your teeth. If caught at an early enough stage gum disease, or gingivitis to give it its’ technical name, can be reversed with the right daily cleaning regime, but if it is allowed to take hold it will develop into the more serious periodontal disease. If this happens the gums will pull away from the teeth and the space left can become infected. At its’ worst, periodontitis can lead to the teeth becoming loose and having to be removed or simply falling out.
As if this wasn’t serious enough, new research has uncovered a link between gum disease and breast cancer. A survey of 3,273 people was carried out by the Journal of Breast Cancer Research and Treatment and the results served to underline precisely how important dealing with gum disease is. The research found that people with chronic gum disease had a greater chance of also suffering from breast cancer. The conclusion that gum disease increases the risk of cancer was one which was also reached by a study carried out by the World Health Organisation, which ran from 1985 to 2001. It’s not just breast cancer, either, since gum disease has also been linked with a range of other serious health problems. In simple terms, the presence of inflammation in the gums is an indication of general ill health and the bacteria present when gingivitis occurs can migrate throughout the body and cause other problems. Amongst the illnesses and health conditions which have been linked to gum disease are the following:
Pneumonia: the bacteria in the mouth can be breathed in and, once in the lungs, may cause respiratory problems up to and including pneumonia.
Diabetes: research carried out by the American Academy of Periodontology has unearthed a link between diabetes and gum disease, not least in the fact that people with diabetes are more likely to develop gum disease.
Prostate Cancer: Dr. Dominique Michaud, of the Imperial College of London carried out a study in 1986, involving over 48,000 men. She discovered that men with gum disease had a 14 percent higher risk of prostate cancer.
Pregnancy Problems: pregnant women with gum disease can experience serious problems, in as much as they may be more likely to give birth too soon and their babies might be too small.
Heart Disease: Research has been carried out which has demonstrated that those with gum disease are actually running almost twice the risk of developing coronary artery disease as people without it. The bacteria present in gingivitis can enter the blood stream and make its’ way to the heart. Once there, the bacteria will attach itself to fat present in the blood stream and this will encourage the formation of clots. These clots can then obstruct the flow of blood through the heart, causing heart attacks.
Clearly then, whilst you should always strive to have clean healthy teeth purely for the sake of having clean healthy teeth, looking after your mouth will pay dividends in term of your overall good health. By learning the steps and techniques required to avoid gum disease, you’ll also be avoiding some of the most serious conditions it is possible to suffer from.