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Whanganui

How caring for your teeth can reduce risk of heart & lung disease

How caring for your teeth can reduce risk of heart and lung disease

My grandmother always said that healthy gums mean healthy teeth; that we should take care of them as though our lives depend on it, and actually, our lives do depend on it. 

Gums are living proof of the health of our teeth and oral system as a whole. There’s a lot we can learn from our gums; they are an excellent indicator of our oral health and an early warning system for the rest our body.  If our teeth are supported by healthy gums, our chances for over-all long-term health are considerably increased. On the flip side, gum disease can open the door to a whole range of other health problems... 

Check out some of the things to look for in your mouth that stand between you and the ripe old age of 100... 

 

What are the signs of gum disease? 

Gum disease can manifest itself in many different ways. Often it is pretty painless, and so can go unnoticed. The early signs to look for are red, swollen gums that bleed easily, accompanied by bad taste, and unfortunately bad-breath.  

Common symptoms of gum disease:  
  • Bad breath that won't go away 
  • Red or swollen gums 
  • Tender or bleeding gums 
  • Painful chewing 
  • Loose teeth 
  • Sensitive teeth 
  • Receding gums or longer appearing teeth 

 

Ultimately, leaving gum disease untreated could result in damage to the supporting tissue and loss of teeth.  Most worrying though is the risk of cardio-vascular issues, including stroke or heart-attack. 

Whether it’s bad breath that drives you to your local dentist or spotting blood when you brush your teeth, its best to get it checked-out. Home-remedies like salt-water mouthwash and the like can only go so far in topically calming the symptoms of gum disease.  To get on top of it, a visit to your dentist is the right thing to do.  

 

What are the types of gum disease? 

The two most commons types of gum disease are:  

  • Gingivitis 
  • Periodontitis 

Gingivitis is an early form of gum disease that causes inflamed gums and it’s easy to spot. Symptoms of gingivitis are redness and irritation around the gums, some blood when brushing or flossing and bad breath.   

Periodontitis is a severe gum infection that can lead to tooth loss, and in more severe cases can destroy the soft tissue that supports the teeth. 

Because of the type of bacteria that causes periodontitis it is also a risk factor for heart and lung disease.  

 

Gum disease and oral bacteria go hand in hand 

Imagine that two friends get together to start a village. They bring their wives, and have children. Without being given a reason to leave, they build their own houses and create cities and farms and develop a very complex infrastructure, like roads and rail. The longer they live in this growing, thriving environment, the more they mature and become a larger community. After a while, they need more space for their growing community and they need to find new space to set up shop. 

The oral bacteria that lead to gum disease flourish in mouths that are not regularly brushed and flossed. These bacteria can survive and thrive without any oxygen (so you can’t starve them out) and, unfortunately, they can be pretty resistant to antibiotics.  

Oral bacteria and gum disease can cause havoc in your mouth, but it doesn’t stop there. As well as building thriving communities in mouths, medical researchers have found that oral bacteria can also contribute to heart and lung disease.  

 

The link between gum disease and heart disease 

There is a solid body of medical evidence that shows a direct relationship between gum disease and heart disease. An article in Harvard Health publishing states that people with gum disease have two to three times the risk of having a heart attack, stroke or other serious cardiovascular event.  

In essence, when gum-disease-causing bacteria are present, there is a real risk that they travel to blood vessels elsewhere in the body, which may lead to the narrowing of life-sustaining arteries. The bacteria enter the blood stream through the damaged, leaky tissue around the teeth and then have direct access to the rest of the body. 

 

The link between gum disease and lung disease 

Our mouths and airways have an intimate relationship. Every breath of air we inhale passes through either our nose or mouth – and anything that gets picked up along the way can end up in our lungs.  

Of course the body has its own defense systems, but if the welcome mat is dirty, the carpet doesn’t stand a chance.  

Researchers have found that the bacteria that cause periodontitis can be inhaled and when they are, they make a direct line for the lungs. These bacteria have been shown to contribute to bacterial pneumonia, as well as exacerbating COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).  

 

The link between gum disease and immunity 

This recent article by our lead dentist Arjuna Rajasingham highlights the correlation between gum disease and our general levels of immunity.  

In short, gum disease is a chronic disease process; it starts within our own bodies, which means our own bodies should have the tools to deal with it. But, if you regularly suffer with gum disease, it’s a sure-fire sign that your body is losing the immunity battle and something is wrong.  

 

How to prevent gum disease 

Taking care of your mouth is key to taking care of your overall health, and so a simple regime of brushing your teeth twice a day is key to taking control of nasty oral bacterial infections.  

Taking on a healthy love for flossing will make the daily dental regime even better for you. A gentle floss on each side of each tooth can help clear out any nasties that your tooth brush missed. 

If you’re uncertain about the state of affairs in your mouth, booking an appointment with your local dentist for an oral check-up to assess the health of your mouth and teeth is a good bet. A consultation with a dentist to review and discuss the overall health of your mouth will put you in the picture and provide a clear path of action. The dentist is your ally in the fight against gum disease, no matter how mild or severe. 

 

The final word 

It is more evident than ever that our teeth and our mouths are more than just tools for talking, smiling and eating. The way our teeth develop, how we take care of them daily and how we love our mouths can make a difference in every aspect of our lives, today and tomorrow. 

Look after your mouth because good health starts with your mouth.  


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