promoting oral health to the nation
With May seeing the start of the British Health Foundation initiative ‘National Smile Month’ it’s an apt time to look at the importance of your oral health not just in regards to your smile but also your overall health.
You wouldn’t ignore bleeding to any part of your body but many people ignore bleeding gums. It’s one of the first and most obvious signs of gum disease, which if left untreated, can cause a whole range of problems. By visiting a dentist as often as they recommend, we can help to nip these things in the bud.
Could the health of my mouth effect my general health?
Yes. There is new research which supports something that dental professionals have suspected for a long time: infections in the mouth can cause problems in other parts of the body.
What problems could poor dental health cause?
Problems which may be caused or made worse by poor dental health include:
Giving birth to a premature or low-birth-weight baby
Respiratory (lung) disease
How can the health of my mouth affect my heart?
People with gum disease are almost twice as likely to have coronary artery disease than people without gum disease. When people have gum disease, bacteria from the mouth can get into their bloodstream. The bacteria produce protein. This can then affect the heart by causing the platelets in the blood to stick together in the blood vessels of the heart. This can make clots more likely to form.
What is the link between gum disease and strokes?
Several studies have looked at the connection between mouth infections and strokes. They have found that people who have had a stroke are more likely to have gum disease than people who have not had one.
How could diabetes affect my dental health?
People with diabetes are more likely to have gum disease than people without it. This is probably because diabetics are more likely to get infections in general. People who do not know they have diabetes, or whose diabetes is not under control, are especially at risk.
If you do have diabetes it is important that any gum disease is diagnosed, because it can increase your blood sugar. This would put you at risk of diabetic complications.
Also, if you are diabetic, you may find that you heal more slowly. If you have a problem with your gums, or have problems after visits to your dentist, discuss this with your dentist before you have any treatment.
New research has also shown that you are more likely to develop diabetes if you have gum disease.
If you have diabetes, you have an increased risk of losing teeth.
What are the tell-tale signs of gum disease that I should look out for?
Visit your dentist or hygienist if you have any of the symptoms of gum disease. These can include:
Inflammation of the gums, causing them to be red, swollen and to bleed easily, especially when brushing
An unpleasant taste in your mouth
Regular mouth infections
Does gum disease run in families?
Although there is some evidence that gum disease runs in families, the main cause is the plaque that forms on the surface of your teeth. To prevent gum disease, you need to make sure you remove all the plaque from your teeth every day by brushing and cleaning in between your teeth.
How can I prevent gum disease from getting worse?
If you have gum disease, your dentist or hygienist will usually give your teeth a thorough clean to remove any scale or tartar. This may take a number of sessions with the dentist or hygienist.
They will also show you how to remove the soft plaque yourself, by cleaning all the surfaces of your teeth thoroughly at home. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria which forms on the teeth every day.
Gum disease is never cured. But as long as you keep up the home-care you have been taught you can slow down its progress and even stop it altogether. You must make sure you remove plaque every day, and go for regular check-ups with the dentist and hygienist, as often as they recommend.
Can smoking affect my teeth and gums?
Smoking can make gum disease much worse. People who smoke are more likely to produce bacterial plaque that leads to gum disease. Smoking can also lead to tooth staining, tooth loss because of gum disease, bad breath, and in more severe cases mouth cancer.