We all have bacteria in our mouth. It may not sound nice, but it’s normal and by brushing your teeth twice-daily and flossing regularly, this bacteria can be kept under control. It's only when you neglected your teeth and gums that more serious infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease can occur.
What is gum disease?
Gum disease (called periodontal disease) is a chronic, infectious and inflammatory disease of the gums and supporting tissues. It is caused by the normal bacteria that exist in everyone's mouths, which, if unchecked, can create inflammation around the tooth; the gum starts to pull away from the tooth, creating spaces (periodontal pockets) that become infected.
The effect on your health
According to the Australian and New Zealand Dental Association, gum disease is associated with several other health issues such as diabetes and heart disease. Research shows that inflammation caused by gum disease may be responsible for the association. Therefore, treating inflammation may not only help manage gum disease but may also help with the management of other chronic inflammatory conditions.
How do your teeth affect your heart?
"The bacteria from your mouth can spread through your bloodstream or can be aspirated into the lungs," says a spokesperson for the Australian and New Zealand Dental Association. When bacteria or other germs from your mouth or other parts of your body travel through your blood, they can attach themselves to damaged areas of your heart. This can cause endocarditis, an infection in the inner lining of the heart.
The link between oral health and diabetes
"There is a two-way relationship between glycaemic control and oral health," says the New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA). "People with diabetes are at risk for mouth infections, especially gum disease. This is because they are generally more susceptible to bacterial infections, and have a decreased ability to fight bacteria that invade the gums. On the other side of the equation, advanced gum disease makes control of blood sugar levels more difficult so whichever way you look at it, persons with diabetes must look after their teeth and gums as part of managing their illness."
Gum disease and pregnancy
A Western Australian study1, called SMILE, found that women with gum disease took an average of just over seven months to become pregnant -- two months longer than the average of five months that it took women without gum disease to conceive. "It now appears that all women should also be encouraged to see their dentist to have any gum disease treated before trying to conceive," said the author of the study, Professor
Roger Hart, Professor of Reproductive Medicine at the University of Western Australia (Perth, Australia) and Medical Director of Fertility Specialists of Western Australia2.
Visiting your dentist regularly, and being alert to changes in your gum, (such as tenderness, bleeding or loose teeth), can help protect your oral health.