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A girl in pain touching her cheeks

We have all been to the dentist and left feeling like we have been really bad. The usual things we get told off for are: not brushing our teeth well, forgetting to floss, or eating and drinking stuff we know we shouldn’t.

The reason our dentist points out the different ways we neglect our teeth is that poor dental health can lead to gum disease which, if left untreated, has many unpleasant complications. Many studies have found that what is going on in the mouth can affect other areas of the body, which has led researchers to question: “Does gum disease have a link to cancer, dementia, and stroke?”

What Is Gum Disease?

You are likely to have some form of gum disease at some point in your life, but following a regular and thorough oral health regime can stop it from developing further.

When bacteria in the mouth feed on sugars and starches, they will attach themselves to the teeth, which creates a plaque. Regular cleaning will keep this at bay; however, if the plaque is allowed to multiply, then it will start to irritate the gums.

Symptoms of gum disease include:

  • Red and swollen gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Bad breath
  • Loose teeth
  • Abscesses

If you notice any of these symptoms, then you should book an appointment with your dentist. The good news is gum disease can be easily treated if it is identified early enough. However, if you ignore any of the symptoms above, the teeth, gums, bones, and tissues of the mouth can suffer irreparable damage.

This Is Where It Gets Complicated

There is a common misunderstanding that what goes on in the mouth stays in the mouth, which means people often underplay bleeding gums or tooth loss. In fact, many people will suffer in silence because they have insufficient insurance or have a phobia of dentists.

Recent research has found that this is a very dangerous mindset, as gum disease increases the risk of developing diseases in other parts of the body. Numerous studies have found links between gum disease and:

  • Diabetes
  • Certain cancers such as breast and pancreas
  • Stroke
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Dementia
  • Arthritis

While these studies are still ongoing, the data suggests that links do exist. Recent results from studies in America and Taiwan have found links and indicated that prevention methods such as regular checkups and cleaning can have a positive effect on patients who have existing risk factors.

Prevention Is the Best Form of Treatment

The evidence has been strong enough for insurance companies to start offering additional coverage for preventative dental work. Regular visits and good daily oral hygiene will help to keep your teeth and gums healthy.

Start by cleaning and flossing every day, and make sure you see your dentist twice a year. They may recommend seeing a dental hygienist for a thoroughly clean as well.

So next time you roll your eyes at your dentist when they mention flossing, remember they are looking out for your general health, not theirs!