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03 February 2012 - When your dentist says . . .
. . . hello, and how are you? He's not just being polite on the contrary, those of us who think our dentist's interest stops short of our teeth – should think again!
And when you do think again, it's actually quite logical isn't it? How could whatgoes into and on in our mouths, not affect the rest of our body and vice versa? Paying attention to oral health may well help us live longer, healthier lives and daily exercise with brush and floss plus regular visits to the hygienist and for dental check-ups, are a small price to pay.
Most of us know that sometimes, even with the most vigorous attention, bacteria can build up on our teeth and once that happens, our gums are prone to infection. Our immune systems get the alarm call,leap in to fight the lurgy and that's when our gums become inflamed and can be prone to bleeding. And, as always, bleeding's usually the sign of something amiss.
The longer an infection and resultant inflammation are in situ, the more damage can be done as chemicals released gnaw away at gum and bone structure. Most inflammation can be cleared up pretty quickly by paying particular attention to those areas, ensuring there are no overlooked food fragments or plaque build-up. However, ignoring the problem over a period of time can lead to severe gum disease which can cause some nasty issues in the rest of the body. Just a few examples:
The link between periodontitis (gum disease) and diabetes is because inflammation of the gums has been proven to weaken the body's blood sugar control. And this is a problem which works both ways to our disadvantage because high blood sugar provides ideal conditions for infection to flourish.
Research continues on this but it is known that gum disease and heart conditions are often found to co-exist. They also have risk factors in common such as smoking, unhealthy diet, and excess weight.
One of the theories being researched is that mouth infection and inflammation can set offinflammation in blood vessels and we don't need to be medically qualified to know that's not good news with raised blood pressure and risk of plaque breaking away from blood vessel walls to cause heart attack or stroke.
Research shows there is a possible role played by gum disease and infection in causing premature or low weight births because inflammation, wherever located in the body, appear to influence and hamper foetal development.
Again, none of us have to have it spelt out that smoking doesn't benefit our health in any way and the mouth is an area particularly affected, with a smoker's risk of gum disease some three times higher than non-smokers. Amongst other issues, nicotine causes blood vessel constriction which badly affects the ability of gums to fight any infection which might occur.