Plenty of evidence now shows that the state of your teeth and gums
have a serious impact on your overall health, writes DR MERVYN DRUIAN.
Gum disease, for example, is linked to a raised risk of heart disease, stroke
and premature birth. Here's why you should make sure you are up-to-date with
your dental appointments.
HEART DISEASEIt sounds unlikely, but bad teeth, bleeding gums and poor dental hygiene
can end up causing heart disease.Several studies confirm a link between gum disease and atherosclerosis,
a narrowing of the blood vessels that can lead to heart attack.The problem is that bleeding gums provide an entry into the blood for up to
700 different types of bacteria found in the mouth. Microbiologists at the
University of Bristol have discovered that when bacteria get into the bloodstream,
they stick to tiny fragments called platelets, causing them to clot. This can lead to
partial blockages of blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart disease and heart
attack.So it does not matter how fit, slim or healthy you are, your chances of getting heart
disease are increased by having bad teeth.STROKEBrush your teeth well and floss regularly to protect your brain. Poor tooth brushing
and bleeding, infected gums raises your risk of stroke in the same way as it does
heart disease - by allowing bacteria into the bloodstream.A study published in the journal Stroke found that stroke risk increases with the
severity of gum disease. Astonishingly, those with severe gum disease had more
than four times the risk of suffering a stroke than those with mild gum disease.ALZHEIMER'S DISEASEResearch has long associated oral health with a raised risk of dementia, although
studies have not made it clear how the state of the teeth affect mental function.
Last year, researchers found a link between mild memory loss and gum disease.
A major health grant, welcomed by the British Dental Health Foundation, has
recently been given to help scientists study this link.OBESITYBacteria in our mouths could play a direct part in causing obesity.A study in the Journal of Dental Research found that one species of bacteria -
selenomona noxia - was present at above-average levels in all overweight
women. Whether or not this bacteria helps to cause obesity or hinders weight
loss is being researched.DIABETESLast month, research published from a study at New York University showed
that the overwhelming majority of gumdisease sufferers were also found to be
at high risk of developing diabetes. The link was so strong and significant that
researchers concluded that dentists should offer diabetes screenings in their
practices.PREMATURE BIRTHPregnant women with high levels of oral bacteria linked to tooth decay and
cavities are at risk of giving birth to lowweight or premature babies.The study, in the Journal of Periodontology, adds to a growing body of research
which shows a link between a pregnant woman's oral health and the health of
her newborn. Dr Dasanayake, professor of Dentistry at New York University, who
conducted the research, hypothesizes that caries causing bacteria can travel to the
uterus in the blood, where they trigger a reaction that leads to contractions and early
birth.The good news is that research at Columbia University College found that
dental care before or during pregnancy can significantly lower the risk of premature
birth.TIPS FOR HEALTHY GUMS...Research indicates that inflammation of the gums and bleeding - which allows
oral bacteria to spread around the body in the blood - is linked to a raised risk
of serious health problems.Unfortunately, gum disease is common, yet unless
severe, it often goes unnoticed. In mild gum disease, you may have inflamed
gums but little bleeding. Only once it gets worse do people tend to take notice.
At this stage, your risk of health problems elsewhere is already higher.
Meanwhile, the infection in your gums will be causing gum recession and bone
loss, increasing the risk of cavities and tooth loss.Good gum health is maintained through regular tooth brushing - twice daily -
and tooth flossing, ideally after every meal to remove food trapped between your
teeth. Crucially, you should see a dental hygienist every six months. Professional
tooth cleaning removes plaque, calcified deposits that build up on teeth and beneath
the gums. Preventing the build- up of this plaque is vital as bacteria thrive on it.
Left in place, even thorough tooth brushing and flossing is unlikely to keep your