Research is ongoing, but red, swollen, and bleeding gums may point to health problems such as heart disease and diabetes. Healthy gums are a physical barrier designed to stop bacteria entering the body. When gums are unhealthy, bacteria from the mouth may enter the bloodstream, setting off an inflammatory reaction elsewhere. Left untreated, gum disease can increase the risk of a host of diseases linked to inflammation. Certain diseases and medications may also cause problems in the mouth, which is why an annual check-up with your dentist is recommended.
Some studies show that people with gum disease are more likely to suffer from heart disease than those with healthy, pink gums. Preliminary research has shown that bacteria found in plaque can also be inhaled into the lungs where they may cause an infection or aggravate any existing lung condition, especially in older adults. There is a strong link between gum disease and diabetes, and research shows that people with rheumatoid arthritis are eight times more likely to have gum disease than people without this autoimmune disease. Adults without teeth may be more likely to have chronic kidney disease than those who still have teeth, and if you’re pregnant and have gum disease, you could be more likely to have a baby that is born too early and/or with a low birth weight.
Healthy gums should look pink and firm, not red, swollen and bleeding. To keep gums healthy, practise good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss at least once a day, see your dentist regularly, and avoid smoking.
Dr Terence McAlinden, Breaffy Dental, Breaffy Medical Centre, Breaffy GAA Club, Castlebar. 094 902 3163.