Body & Fitness

Health focus: gums

Dental hygiene and gums in particular often fall by the way-side in our busy schedules - careful, you can suffer from more than just halitosis

Gum disease can lead to pneumonia, it was recently reported — it’s also linked to heart disease and stroke. So why is the state of your gums linked so dramatically to your overall health?

Gums are made up of soft connective tissue containing blood vessels. If plaque and tartar are allowed to build up on the teeth, they can irritate and inflame the gums. The inflammation is the body’s natural defence against attack.

However, it’s thought that long-term inflammation in the mouth allows inflammatory molecules to enter the circulatory system — these molecules then travel around the body, causing inflammation affecting vital organs and blood vessels.

This is why an apparently irrelevant irritation in your mouth can increase your susceptibility to serious conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney disease, certain cancers and even Alzheimer’s — all are thought to be linked to inflammation.

Studies have shown gum disease makes you almost twice as likely to suffer from heart disease. When it comes to pneumonia, it’s not inflammation but bacteria that’s the problem, says research from Yale University School of Medicine.

It seems poor oral hygiene leads to bacteria from plaque in the mouth and throat being inhaled into the lungs.

To avoid gum disease: brush your teeth, floss daily (or use an inter-dental brush) and have twice-yearly check-ups.

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