Periodontal diseases may increase the likelihood of Alzheimer’s and other health problems
When we talk about dental care, most people probably generally think about their teeth. As these are very visible when we smile, and are also necessary for eating, that probably isn’t too surprising. Unfortunately, it may also be one of the reasons that some people don’t always give their gums the care that they deserve. Gum health is important for maintaining healthy teeth and increasingly too, their health is being linked with diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s, amongst others.
At the Synergy Clinic in Addlestone, we believe in full mouth care, and your regular six monthly examinations allow us to check the health not only of your teeth, but also of your gums and other soft tissues. Keeping your gums healthy is important for many reasons; some of which we discuss below.
Discomfort and antisocial effects
Before we look at some of the more potentially serious implications of having gum disease, it is worth looking at some of the ‘stand alone’ effects that it can have. When gingivitis occurs, patients are likely to suffer from sore and swollen gums. These may also bleed when brushed. Sore and tender gums will make it more difficult to eat and will almost certainly spoil the enjoyment of your food. Halitosis, or bad breath, is also a distinct possibility and is caused by the gases that are expelled by the bacteria that are present with gingivitis and periodontitis.
Loose or missing teeth
The above symptoms of gum disease are bad enough on their own, but, if not treated, gingivitis will eventually lead to periodontitis, a more advanced form of gum disease. When this happens, the bone surrounding the tooth roots can become infected and start to break down. As it does so, the teeth will start to loosen in the sockets and become wobbly and unstable. Eventually, the bone may no longer be able to hold the tooth in place and it may fall out.
Heart diseases and strokes
Although research into the possible link between gum disease and other general health issues is still in the relatively early stages, it is becoming increasingly evident that it may play a significant role; certainly enough to warrant not risking it and starting to look after our gums better. It is thought that the bacteria that contributes to gingival diseases may enter the bloodstream and can lead to a narrowing of the blood vessels around the heart. This may eventually cause a blockage, leading to a heart attack or stroke.
Dentists have known for some time that diabetics are at a greater risk of gum disease than those who don’t have it. Their impaired immune system is the reason why our Addlestone dental team recommend more frequent oral health checks for patients who have diabetes. Researchers though, are now increasingly finding that it may also work the other way around, with people who have gum disease being more likely to develop diabetes.
Anyone who had a friend or relative with this disease will know how devastating it can be, both for the patient concerned and those close to them. Whilst the exact causes are not yet known, and no drugs currently available to cure it, it was interesting to see on a news website this morning (reference 1 below) , that scientists have discovered that bacteria that are present in gum disease, have also been found in the brains of Alzheimer patients, both dead and alive. From this, a new drug is being developed which could help in the battle against Alzheimer’s disease. This is expected to be used in human clinical trials later this year. There is still some caution about these finding though, and larger clinical trials are expected to further advance the knowledge and hopefully find not only a treatment, but also ways of preventing it in the first place.
We think that you will agree that, whilst not fully proven, the probability of a link between gum disease and other health issues does exist and is a distinct possibility. It therefore makes sense to make sure that you look after your gums, as well as your teeth. We will discuss gum disease care in more detail in a future blog, but essentially, to keep your gums healthy you should brush them, as well as your teeth, add the use of dental floss to your daily cleaning regime and also make sure that you have your teeth professionally cleaned at least twice a year by a hygienist.
For a full gum health check, both to protect your teeth and your general health, why not make an appointment to see the hygienist at the Synergy Clinic? You can make an appointment by calling us on 01932 856541.
Reference 1 – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-46986709