Bad oral health can affect our general health and well-being as well as robbing us of our smile.
The British Dental Health Foundation recently conducted a National Dental Survey . The conclusions of the research are shocking and have gone so far as to associate gum disease to potential risk of heart disease, diabetes, strokes, premature births, low birth-weight babies and, in recent early studies, infertility. These are astounding implications and Dr Nigel Carter (the Foundation’s Chief Executive) states in conclusion ‘The public is put at risk by poor dental hygiene habits yet awareness of these risks is very low. Gum disease in particular has been linked to serious health issues. It affects most people at some point in their lives, so there is no excuse for ignoring good dental hygiene.”
Such important conclusions that have wide spread effects need to be broadcast a little more widely. The basic advice of the British Health Foundation is to:
a) brush your teeth twice a day with a flouride toothpaste (there is a massive debate about flouride that I will touch on in a separate post)
b) floss daily
c) avoid sweet sticky foods
d) have regular dental check ups
Of those responding to some research carried out by the foundation 33% did not follow the advice to brush twice daily, 8% (equivalent to nearly five million people in the UK), admitted they had no NHS dentist and were not inclined to find one. I wonder if they know the darker side of not caring for your mouth and teeth?
Research carried out which looks specifically at the systemic links between oral health and general health has come up with these frightening conclusions:
Facts, figures and details taken from British Dental Health Foundation
Good oral healthcare and treatment for gum disease can prevent the bacteria that cause thickening of the arteries. (Piconi, Trabattoni et al, FASEB Journal Dec 08 Italian/UK study in FASEB Journal)
Gum disease can be linked to heart disease. (September 2008 – scientists present the Society of General Microbiology’s autumn meeting with two new studies illustrating this.
There are 700 million oral bacteria among these the harmful bacteria can bond and act against the immune system or antibiotics, increasing chances of heart disease even in the case of fit healthy people (Jenkinson, Kerrigan et al – Uni Bristol/RCS Dublin Sep 08)
Oral bacteria causes atherosclerosis, or ‘furring’ of the arteries, as oral bacteria’s similarity to proteins which cause arteries to fur confuses the immune system. (These findings were presented by University of Otago’s Professor Greg Seymour).
There is strong evidence that treating gum disease can reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke. Inflammation in the mouth has a measurable effect in the bloodstream and the rest of the body. In trials, once the gum infection was eradicated the risk of heart attacks and future blood clots was reduced. (Taylor, Tofler et al; Journal of Dental Research, January 2006) * Jan 2006 – PERICAR trial).
There is evidence of links from periodontal disease to type 2 diabetes. Of 9,000 participants in the study 800 developed diabetes. Those with high levels of periodontal disease were twice as likely to develop diabetes. (Demmer, Desvarieux et al, Diabetes Care November 2008 – Columbia University. USA).
A link has been found between gum disease and pre-diabetes, often a precursor to type-2 diabetes. Dr. Carla Pontes Andersen said: “The gum inflammation seen in periodontitis can allow bacteria and inflammatory substances from the dental structures to enter the bloodstream. These processes seem to affect blood sugar control.” (Pontes Anderson, Flyybjerg et al; Journal of Periodontology)
December 2008 – researchers in Finland question 328 women on oral health and pregnancy, those who needed urgent dental treatment, suggesting poor oral health, were 2.5 times more likely to miscarry. (Heimonen et al, Blackwell Publishing)
July 2007 – Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Chile finds link between gum disease and premature births. One in three women at risk of premature labour presented with gum disease bacteria in their amniotic fluid, as well as their mouth.
In June 2006 scientists found that gum disease may contribute to clogged carotid arteries leading to an increased risk of a stroke. Blocked carotid arteries were much more common in people who had gum disease. (Chung, Friedlander et al, General Session & Exhibition of the International Association for Dental Research)
In February of this year a pilot study on 56 men suggests links between gum disease and low sperm counts. ( Hebrew University Hadassah School of Dental Medicine and Bikur Holim Hospital-based scientists)
If that has scarred you into visiting the dentist or you need more information you can contact the National Dental Helpline for free and impartial expert advice on 0845 063 1188 Monday to Friday.