The most recent adult dental health survey (2009), the results of which were published by the Telegraph under the heading “Why not brushing your teeth can kill you” has shown that a staggering 83% of adults in the UK have some form of gum disease. Similar figures have been published in other countries.
Woah, let’s stop right there, rewind, and play that statistic again. “83% of adults in the UK have some form of gum disease”… Really? Sadly, yes. That means the overwhelming majority of us therefore have gum disease or will suffer from it at some pont in the future. Yet for the most part we are blissfully unaware of it because it has few, if any, symptoms. A bit of bleeding, a bit of sensitivity while brushing our teeth, a bit of tenderness here and there. Nothing that exactly rings alarm bells or sends us scuttling off to the dentist or hygienist for treatment.
And that is where a good part of the problem lies. Because for the most part, this insidious mostly painless condition that erodes away the foundations of the teeth and ends up with them moving about, getting loose, forming abscesses, and ultimately tooth loss, does not cause enough symptoms for us to seek treatment until it is too late, and major dental reparative work or tooth loss are inevitable.
But that is only the tip of the iceberg! When we have a chronic low-grade infections like periodontal disease continuously eroding away at the tissues in our mouths, cascades of “messenger molecules” are secreted from the cells that are being affected by the infection, that alert the rest of the body to the presence of a damaging process going on somewhere in the body. Increasingly, published papers are demonstrating that the effects on the rest of the body are far reaching, affecting our recovery from heart and other diseases, outcomes from pregnancy, and the progression of diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, bowel disease (including IBS, cancer, and many others,) meningitis, and even strokes and other serious life-threatening conditions.
As more and more research is showing that this quietly ongoing infection of the gums has far reaching and sometimes even life-threatening effects throughout the body, we need to take it far more seriously than we currently do.
Most of us would say we go and have regular dental check ups. However, as the overwhelming majority of us have been proven to have some form of gum disease, and given that the condition comes and goes with periods of activity and non-activity, one of the most important reasons for going to see your dentist and/or your hygienist regularly is not to have your teeth checked to see if you need any fillings, but most importantly, to have your gums checked to make sure that you do not have underlying gum disease affecting not only your mouth health but also your general health and compromising your immune system’s ability keep you healthy.
Unfortunately, not all dentists or hygienists do periodontal examinations routinely, so when you go to your checkup please specify that you want your gums checked, and you want a print out of the results of the periodontal checkup for your records because, if you change dentist/hygienists at some time, it is always good to have these records yourself to share with your new dentist and/or hygienist, and to check yourself that the condition is not getting worse with time.
You never know, but you may just be saving yourself from a major medical disaster in the future!
For more information on the diagnosing and treating gum disease, please go to: http://Periodontal.co.uk
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