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Bleeding gums. Swollen gums. Bad breath. These are all signs of gum disease that, if left untreated, can cause tooth loss and gum abscesses. 

It’s believed 90 percent of adults in the united kingdom have some kind of gum disease. It may vary in phases — from the mild gingivitis into acute, fully-blown gum disease.

Dr Reena Wadia, a periodontist and creator of RW Perio, tells HuffPost UK the matter is ldquo;ordinary and often overlooked ”.  Aside from the obvious issues it triggers like tooth loss and bleeding gums, severe gum disease has also been linked to health complications such as cancer, dementia and cardiovascular disease.

Here’s what you need to learn about it.

What causes gum disease?

Gum disease, also referred to as periodontitis, is caused by bacterial disease that damages the delicate tissue and bone that support the teeth.

It may be due to a range of factors. Poor oral hygiene — not cleaning your teeth regularly — is a frequent trigger, as well as: smoking, old age, pregnancy, diabetes, a weakened immune system, malnutrition, taking certain medicines that lessen the flow of saliva (such as antidepressants and antihistamines), anxiety, and genetics.

What are the signs of gum disease?

Healthy teeth usually look firm and pink, although they may contain different pigments based on your ethnic origin, Anna Middleton, creator of London Hygienist, tells HuffPost UK. 

There are some crucial telltale signs of health illness.  These include bleeding teeth after brushing, flossing or eating, which Dr Wadia states is a “organic alarm bell representing disease”, as well as changes in the overall look of your teeth (they might become red, swollen or start receding) and chronic bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth. 

“Much like you wouldn’t ignore bleeding from any other part of your body, don’t ignore bleeding gums,” she states.

In worst case scenarios, gum disease may lead to gum boils or abscesses — “these are debilitating and may cause your face to swell up,” she states — as well as jagged teeth, tooth loss, or your teeth changing position and drifting. 

What health issues has gum disease been connected to?

Gum disease has been associated with an elevated risk for a variety of health ailments, such as: cardiovascular disease, arthritis, lung infections, premature labour, and with a baby with a low birth weight.

A number of studies have connected severe gum disease with various kinds of cancer. In one study, a history of gum disease was associated with a 43 percent and 52% greater risk of oesophageal cancer and esophageal cancer respectively.  Another study found people with severe gum disease had a greater chance of developing lung and colorectal cancer compared to those with mild or no gum disease.

A more recent study in July 2020 connected gum disease with dementia in later life. Released in the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, it accompanied by 8,275 people with an average age of 63 over a 20-year span. 

“Individuals with the most severe gum disease at the start of our analysis had about double the risk for mild cognitive impairment or dementia at the conclusion,” said lead author Ryan Demmer, by the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

“However, the fantastic news was that people with minimal tooth loss and mild gum disease were no more likely to develop thinking dementia or problems compared to people with no dental problems. ”

Good dental hygiene is the best way to maintain healthy teeth and gums throughout your lifetime, said Demmer, who noted that more study is needed to understand if therapy for gum disease can prevent dementia. It’s also worth noting that while people with gum disease may have a higher chance of these problems, there’s no clear evidence that gum disease directly triggers them.

How to Reduce gum disease

Dr Wadia says the best ways to look after your gums include effective home care — that means brushing twice a day — as well as routine specialist checks and cleans. She advocates an electrical toothbrush, if possible. “You need to be holding your toothbrush along the gum line, not just on the teeth,” she states.

Middleton advises placing the toothbrush bristles against the teeth at a 45-degree angle towards the gum line. “Lots of us forget to brush our teeth when we brush our teeth, but brushing your teeth is essential since this is where plaque will sit,” she states. 

“When brushing, hold the handle lightly with a light grip and only apply light pressure. Glide the brush throughout your teeth and gums gently, permitting your brush to perform must of the work — don’t scrub. ”

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