Gum disease and links to serious health conditions
13th March 2016
Serious threats to health caused by gum disease – new research points to strong links between gum health and life-threatening conditions including premature birth.
Gum disease has been described as swelling, soreness or infection of the soft tissues supporting the teeth but it is normally pain-free, so patients can be unaware that they have the disease. It makes common sense that healthy gums must be better for the body’s health in general, not only because strong, firm teeth are better at chewing the fibrous foods that are good for you, but also because long-standing infection anywhere in the body can eventually overload the body’s natural defence system. In the last few years, however, significant research has suggested an even closer link between gum disease and many serious life-threatening conditions including heart diseases, stroke, diabetes and lung disease – it is even thought to increase the risk of premature and low birth-weight babies.
Dentists have known for some time that when we chew, bacteria enter the blood stream and travel round the body – the worse the gum disease, the greater the number of bacteria entering the blood – proteins from these bacteria can also cause the blood to clot. This affects the blood supply to the heart and the brain, leading to blocked blood vessels and a greater risk of heart diseases and stroke. Some lung diseases, such as bacterial pneumonia, for example, is likely to be caused by breathing in droplets containing bacteria from the mouth and throat. As infected gums contain more bacteria, this increases the chance of getting lung disease.
Meanwhile, diabetes affects 4.05 million people in the UK and pre-diabetes (people at a high risk of developing diabetes type 2) estimated to affect another 7 million (www.diabetes.co.uk). This disease, left uncontrolled, increases the risk of infection and reduces the body’s ability to heal because one of the body’s building blocks, collagen, is manufactured more slowly and inefficiently in diabetics. Collagen is essential for the healing of gum disease and uncontrolled diabetes significantly affects this process. Recent research is showing now that good oral health contributes positively to a better metabolic control, meaning that it is easier to keep your blood sugar stable. It is our strong belief that, in the same way diabetics need to keep their feet, eyes, heart and kidney function under regular “surveillance”, they also need to keep up with regular dental & gum checks too.
Treating the symptoms of gum disease is particularly important in pregnant women, as it appears to raise the blood levels of the chemicals that start labour. Pregnant women with untreated gum disease are three times more likely to have a premature and low birth-weight baby, with a one-in-four chance that a pregnant woman with untreated gum disease will give birth before 35 weeks.
We all know how regular check-ups can prevent tooth decay – the same is also true for your gums and general health. At Carisbrooke Dental Practice, we have a unique team of Periodontists (Jose Zurdo and Cristina Romão) and highly skilled hygienists, Hilary, Sheikha, Monica and Jo. With their help, and our patients’ dedication, we’ve managed to improve the gum health of all our patients, so don’t worry, just take early action and put your fears at rest.
So, overcome your reluctance to sit in the dentist’s chair! Make an appointment to check how your healthy your gums are, especially if it’s a while since you have visited!
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