Look After Yourself, Brush For Health

Posted on: 28 April 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves

This is the message for this year’s National Smile Month which takes place on the 17th May to 16th June 2009.

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Let’s face it, there’s little to smile about these days, given the current economic conditions. The optimists among us would say ‘at least you have your health’. 

But can we be sure we’re really healthy?

Recent press headlines report that something as simple as tooth decay and gum disease can have a major impact on our overall health. The good news is simple steps can be taken to limit the risk.

Maintaining healthy teeth and gums have benefits far beyond the mouth itself. There is a growing body of sound scientific evidence demonstrating a link between good oral healthcare and overall body health.

Heart

Inflammation in the mouth has a measurable effect in the blood stream and the rest of the body according to an Australian study, particularly the heart. The good news is that this study demonstrated that once the gum problems were addressed, the risk of a heart attack and blood clots was reduced.

Since then, at least three other large studies have also shown that treatment for gum disease and good oral care can prevent the bacteria that cause thickening of the arteries. It seems that bacteria found in the mouth are similar to proteins which cause arteries to fur up, confusing the immune system.

Strokes

Scientists have discovered that gum disease may contribute to clogged carotid arteries leading to an increased risk of a stroke, with research showing that blocked arteries were more common in people who had gum disease.

Diabetes

When the gums are significantly inflamed, bacteria and inflammatory substances can enter the bloodstream, affecting blood sugar control. A study of over 9,000 people found that those with high levels of gum disease were twice as likely to develop maturity onset (Type 2) diabetes.

Premature Births

Researchers in Finland have found that pregnant women who required urgent dental treatment, were two and a half times more likely to miscarry.

Further research in South America has found links between gum disease and premature births, with one in three women at risk of premature labour showing signs of bacteria associated with gum disease present in their amniotic fluid – the liquid that surrounds an unborn baby. 

Scientists believe that any disruption to the amniotic fluid could pose a danger to the mother and baby, especially as hormone changes during pregnancy expose a greater risk of gum disease.

So it seems that to stay healthy, a good place to start is in your mouth!

Top Tips For A Healthy Mouth

  • brush twice a day for at least two minutes, with a fluoride toothpaste (just a smear for toddlers and a pea-sized amount for young children)
  • invest in a good toothbrush, electric toothbrushes are best for cleaning both gums and teeth
  • spit out toothpaste, don’t swallow and don’t rinse
  • floss daily – there are so many varieties available, there’s no excuse, even if your teeth are tightly packed
  • don’t put off a visit to your dentist, check-ups can identify signs of potential health issues
  • avoid snacking, all foods have hidden sugars, from fresh fruit to ready meals, putting your teeth under constant attack from sugar
  • cheese is a great way to finish off a meal as it neutralises the acid levels in the mouth

About The Author

Dr Henry Clover BDS is a Dental Advisor for Denplan Ltd - formerly in general dental practice and owning his own family practice for many years, Henry now regularly offers advice in the UK media including The Mirror, The Mail, Zest, FHM and Metro.

For more information on dental health, visit www.denplan.co.uk.

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