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Gum Disease and Your Overall Health: New Findings Reveal More Risks

Taking steps to avoid gum disease will also benefit your overall health.

As you know, we always encourage you to floss your teeth, with plenty of good reasons! Flossing can help you keep your teeth cleaner and can help prevent gum disease, which can cause swollen and bleeding gums, and—in its more serious stages—tooth and bone loss. For some time, it’s been known that gum disease is definitely linked to serious health issues such as certain cancers, diabetes, heart attacks, high blood pressure, and strokes. Now, new research shows possible connections to additional health issues, and sheds light on a previously unknown risk factor for gum disease. Here’s what you’ll want to know.

Gum disease in expectant mothers could be connected to preterm birth

A recent study involving 77 women who had given birth found that those whose babies were born before 37 weeks were more likely to have gum disease in advanced stages. Their teeth showed higher levels of detachment and more supporting tissue loss than those of the full-term mothers in the study, and they were more likely to have unhealthy oral bacteria. Even more concerning, their babies’ birth weight was lower than those of the full-term mothers. 

Though these results only indicate a link—not a causality—between gum disease and preterm birth, and researchers point out that larger studies are needed, it’s certainly one of the best reasons to floss and brush diligently and to schedule regular hygiene visits if you’re expecting a baby. Good oral health is part of good prenatal health, and could do much to help you have a healthy baby!

Severe gum disease: A possible cause of declining lung function

New research involving a group of middle-aged men and women has studied the relationship between gum disease and lung function. Lung function of the study participants was assessed at the beginning of the study, as well as levels of gum disease. Among those with severe periodontitis (stage 2 disease), lung function worsened as their gum disease intensified, possibly due to bacteria-containing dental plaque contributing to airway inflammation. 

The link between the two conditions has yet to be confirmed. However, if these preliminary findings are any indication, the takeaway might be simple and clear: Taking good care of your oral health might—literally—help you breathe more easily.

A new risk factor for bleeding and receding gums: Oral piercings

If you have lip or tongue piercings, you should remove them, according to dental professionals who presented the results of their research at a recent conference on periodontology and implant dentistry. Most of the patients involved in the study, who all had either one of both kinds of piercings, displayed bleeding and receding gums, and deep gaps and pockets around their teeth—all signs of stage 2 disease. When the condition is left untreated at this stage, permanent teeth could loosen, fall out, or require extraction by your dentist (possibly followed by periodontal surgery, laser gum surgery, and/or implants to replace them). 

The researchers also observed that in those with tongue piercings, there was notable damage around the two front bottom teeth, which are crucial to biting and chewing food. 

The bottom line? Oral piercings may be a fashion statement, but may well be a statement that comes at a significant cost.

Oral care time 2

Great oral care at home is easy and takes fewer than 10 minutes a day.

  • Brush your teeth twice daily
  • Floss your teeth once daily
  • Rinse for 20 seconds after each meal

In addition, forgo oral piercings. Eat a balanced diet, and minimize your sugary drinks and snacks. And, be sure to schedule regular visits with your hygienist—at least twice a year—to help keep your mouth healthy. 

These are all best practices for healthy teeth and gums!

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