Most of us do not pay much attention to our mouths, we clean our teeth in the morning and evening, and some of us use dental floss or interdental brushes to make sure that our teeth are clean and then rinse out and that’s it!
However, a recent UK Adult Dental Health Survey (*1) showed that most of us have gum disease so there is obviously more we should be doing. Gum disease is an infection caused by dental plaque bacteria which creep in underneath the gums. This infection slowly erodes away the foundations of the teeth. Then the gums start shrinking, the teeth get loose and wobbly, and if left untreated, finally we end up with abscesses and tooth loss. But that is not all!
Published research has shown that gum infections have very harmful effects throughout our bodies. Did you know that there is a major connection between gum disease and heart disease? It has been shown that the bacteria from gum disease can settle on the heart valves and damage them permanently. Once this happens the heart is unable to work efficiently and the heart becomes more susceptible to other infections.
Also, that women who have active gum disease during their pregnancy are more likely to have preterm and low birth weight babies! The body cannot concentrate all its resources on the baby while it has to continuously fight off an-ongoing infection in the mouth.
It is well known that people with uncontrolled diabetes are more susceptible to infections. If these people also have gum disease, either it gets worse, or the diabetes becomes more difficult to control, or both. So if the immune system has to struggle to control two problems at the same time to try and maintain health, it often fails to manage either.
New findings: Links between gum disease and bowel cancer, asthma and even erectile dysfunction
The list of how a compromised immune system due to gum disease is associated with other serious diseases is growing daily. Rheumatoid arthritis has been linked with gum disease, and more recently bowel cancer, asthma, and even erectile dysfunction. As more and more medical conditions are associated with this ongoing silent infection that most of us have in our mouths, it is clear that although gum disease does not cause pain or swellings or any other alarming symptoms in its early stages, the effects of the infection from the highly toxic bacteria lodged underneath the gums echo throughout our bodies and can cause or contribute significantly to other illnesses in other parts of the body.
However, gum disease may not be causing any of these diseases; it may be the other way around! If you have a medical condition which is compromising the immune system the body becomes increasingly unable to control the dozens of species of bacteria that normally inhabit the mouth. So, if you suddenly develop the signs of gum disease, is that because there is something going on somewhere else in your body which has weakened the immune system’s ability to keep your mouth healthy ?
If this is so, then the mouth is the mirror of the body. A healthy mouth may well be a reflection of a healthy immune system and a mouth with swollen, red, or bleeding gums may well be telling us that all is not well somewhere else. So if you have the signs of gum disease, or you suddenly develop them for no apparent reason, you should take this very seriously and get it dealt with by a dentist, hygienist, or periodontist (a dental specialist in managing gum conditions), but more importantly you may need to ask yourself when you last had a check-up at the doctor! When did you last have a blood test to check your sugar levels or have your blood pressure taken? Is there something else going on that the symptoms in your mouth are telling you?
Making sure that your immune system is in tiptop condition gives your body the best chance of maintaining wellness and successfully dealing with other conditions and diseases if and when they occur.
So, when you look in the mirror, look in your mouth too, and if you see the signs of gum disease, think about your general health and how this may be affecting you, because it might just be reflecting some nasty little surprises that you can get under control before they become major problems.
Tips For Recognising Gum Disease:-
1. Do your gums bleed for no apparent reason?
2. When you brush your teeth is there some pink staining of your toothpaste, when you spit
out in the basin?
3. Are your gums sore and swollen?
4. Do your teeth feel loose?
5. Are your teeth moving out of alignment?
6. Do you suffer from bouts of bad breath or bad tastes in your mouth?
7. Are your gums shrinking (receding)?
If you have any of these symptoms or if you think you may have periodontal (gum) disease, see your dental professional and ask specifically for a periodontal (gum) examination.
Be aware that early periodontal disease is symptomless so you should have this checked out even if your mouth seems healthy.
This advice is provided by a well known periodontist, Dr Peter Galgut Ph.D., M.Phil., M.Sc., BDS, MRD.RCS, LDS RCS, MFGDP (UK), MF Hom. (Dent) FHEA CUEW
Peter Galgut is a well-established clinical periodontist with a specialist practice in Golders Green, North-West London. He is a world-renowned lecturer and research scientist in periodontology and twice winner of UK Dentist of the Year. If you would like more specialist advice from Dr Galgut please click here to contact me
1 Adult oral health survey 2009