Your health and dentistry – A quest to save Australian lives

Dr Richard Johnston.

By Dr Richard Johnston

If your gums bleed when you brush or floss your teeth you are not in perfect health and your body is more susceptible to disease.

Can you imagine taking an old-fashioned nail brush, gently rubbing this across your fingernails and thinking it was ‘okay’ if blood started to appear?

Or simply pressing on any area of your body and seeing blood seep out?

I would suggest that if either of these two occurrences happened you would be making a very quick visit to your medical doctor or an emergency department.

But thousands of Australians seem to think it perfectly fine if their gums bleed – it is not and here’s why.

Periodontitis or periodontal / gum disease as it is often referred to, is a chronic inflammatory disease that compromises the integrity of the tooth-supporting tissues, that is gingiva, periodontal ligament and alveolar bone, collectively known as the periodontium.

Inflammation (literally meaning ‘in flames’) is one of the body’s defence mechanisms to kill germs. Inflammation is a great thing when it is harnessed for short periods, such as when you cut yourself, but when inflammation is sustained or even permanent as with untreated periodontitis, the effects can be deadly.

The germs that cause cavities and gum disease don’t stay still and can spread throughout the body, especially if your immune system is weak and infections can be serious, even resulting in hospitalisations.

But don’t take my word for this, over the past 20 years the broader medical community have come together and conducted thousands of studies on this topic.

Common sense tells us that the body is not departmentalised, but beyond this, the research is conclusive and has directly linked the following medical issues with oral disease: –

· Cardiovascular disease

· Diabetes

· Respiratory diseases

· Stroke

· Kidney diseases

· Peripheral vascular disease

· Dementia

· Adverse pregnancy outcomes

· Aspiration pneumonia

· Stomach ulcers

· Oral cancers

· Obesity

If there is a history of any of the above in your family and you have bleeding gums, you are at a greater risk of developing these problems. So, if your gums are inflamed or bleed when you floss or brush, then you need to seek help.

Your regular dentist is well qualified to diagnose your situation and many can treat this disease.

In certain cases, your dentist might refer you to a specialist periodontist for treatment, but whatever the outcome you should seek a diagnosis immediately.

Over the coming months, we will take an in-depth look at each of these ailments and the link to oral health.

Finally, did you know that wearing dentures shortens life expectancy by 10 years?*

If untreated the natural result of periodontitis is the loss of a tooth, which eventually can lead to the total loss of all teeth and the need for a denture.

Many studies have been done and show this group of people on average live 10 years less than people with a healthy mouth – let’s not let it get to that.

Dr Richard Johnston is the practice principal at Beerwah Dental and is available by appointment to provide you with an assessment of your oral health. You may also wish to pick up a free copy of the Dental Board’s report ‘Links between oral health and general health’. To book an appointment simply call Beerwah Dental on 07 5494 0766 or visit beerwahdental.com.au to book online.

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