London - Going to the dentist is a chore, and a necessity if we want to keep our own teeth. But there may be more broad-ranging benefits.
Regular check ups, clean teeth and a healthy mouth could increase lifespan and lead to early diagnosis, treatment and prevention of a range of diseases from anaemia to heart problems.
Experts are increasingly discovering links between gum disease - which affects half the population - and dozens of other illnesses. Studies are also showing that treating it can lead to improvements in many of the conditions. The British Dental Association’s scientific adviser, Professor Damien Walmsley, says: “The good news is that most cases of gum disease are treatable and, more importantly, preventable.”
Here, we outline the ways in which good oral hygiene - brushing teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, restricting intake of sugary foods and drinks to mealtimes, stopping smoking and visiting the dentist once every two years (or more often if you have problems) - can boost overall health.
HEART DISEASE AND STROKE
Gum disease usually begins with a build-up of plaque, a sticky coating made up of food and bacteria that can lead to irritation of the gums, bleeding and gingivitis.
Research at New York State University showed that treating periodontal disease (swollen gums) with scaling and root planing and antibiotic gel significantly lowered the levels of C-reactive protein and fibrinogen, which are associated with a higher risk of heart disease.
In a second study at Sydney Dental Hospital, dentists removed teeth from about 70 patients with advanced forms of gum disease and found a big drop in the levels of the same compounds associated with heart disease risk.
One theory is that periodontal bacteria get into the bloodstream and travels to major organs to begin new infections. It has also been suggested that the bacteria causing gum disease could increase the rate at which arteries become blocked.
There may be a similar risk with stroke. Research based on 9,000 adults tracked for 15 years found that women with antibodies to P. gingivalis, the organism most associated with periodontal disease, were twice as likely to have a stroke.
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
A report from cardiologists at the University of Athens says there is a link between chronic periodontitis and increases in blood-pressure levels and hypertension (high blood pressure).
Links have been found between oral health and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, or COPD, a respiratory condition whose main cause is cigarette-smoking. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, oral and other bacteria can get into the lungs to cause frequent bouts of infection in patients with COPD.
Gum-disease rates have been found to be threefold higher in people with diabetes. A study by the US National Institute of Diabetes and Kidney Disease found a link between severity of periodontal disease and mortality in diabetes patients. Researchers at Newcastle University say there is evidence of a two-way effect, with diabetes increasing the risk for periodontitis, and periodontal inflammation worsening blood-sugar control.
Researchers have found higher rates of premature babies among women with periodontal disease. Research at the University of Alabama is showing that gum infections trigger an increase in the levels of prostaglandin and other compounds that induce labour. The researchers were able to reduce premature birth by up to 84 percent in women who received scaling and root planing when they were less than 35 weeks pregnant.
In periodontitis, there is a loss of bone into which the teeth are rooted, and this, as well as loss of the soft-tissue attachment to the tooth, is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. It has been suggested that in some patients gum disease could be an early indicator of the bone-thinning condition osteoporosis.
Those with severe gum disease were twice as likely to die, of any cause, before the age of 64 than those with no disease, according to a study based on a nationally representative US sample of 11,000 people aged over 30. - Daily Mail