Updated 22 January 2018

Are you ignoring gum disease?

Avoiding gum disease, also known as gingivitis, is a big reason to brush and floss your teeth every day.

Going to the dentist might not be a favourite on your to-do list, but these check-ups are important not only for your teeth, but also for your gums.

Caused by bacteria, gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums, which can lead to the more severe problem of periodontitis.

More problems

Of concern, periodontitis has been associated with more serious health issues, such as heart disease and diabetes, all of which share a common link — inflammation, explain experts at the American Academy of Periodontology.

Certain medical conditions and lifestyle choices make you more susceptible to gum disease. If you smoke, take medications that lead to dry mouth, have poor nutrition, or experience high stress, you're more likely to develop gingivitis. If unhealthy gums run in your family or if you already have heart disease, diabetes or arthritis, you're also at higher risk.

It's important to know your risk level because most people don't experience symptoms until their 30s or 40s, when the disease might already be at an advanced stage.

May cause cancer

Unhealthy gums are not only linked to the health issues mentioned above. According to a previous article on Health24, studies have also shown that gum disease can be associated with cancers of the head and neck.

The study found that the risk for these cancers was higher in people who experienced alveolar bone loss. Alveolar bone is the ridge of bone that surrounds the roots of the teeth, holding them in place. Loss of this bone is typically seen with severe periodontal disease.

Know the signs

Warning signs of gingivitis are bad breath that won't go away; red, swollen, sensitive or receding gums or gums that bleed easily; and sensitive or loose teeth that make chewing difficult.

To lower your risk of gum disease, brush your teeth and tongue after every meal. Floss at least once a day. And make a habit of using mouthwash to remove the bacteria that brushing and flossing miss.

Don't be scared of the dentist

Also, be sure to go for regular dental check-ups. If your dentist spots early signs of gum trouble, a visit to a gum specialist — a periodontist— might be needed for treatment. It's also important to get your little ones to the dentist often. Here are some tips to make them (and even you) less scared of the dentist:

  • Talk about the upcoming appointment  with the  child in a positive manner.
  • Try to make dental visits enjoyable for your child.
  • Set  a good example by caring for your own teeth.

Image supplied by iStock.


Ask the Expert

Oral health expert

Dr Imraan Hoosen qualified from the Medical University of South Africa in 1997. Together with his partner, Dr Hoosen now runs a group of dental practices around Johannesburg (Lesedi Private Hospital, Highlands North Medical Centre , Brenthurst Clinic, Parklane Clinic, Simmonds Street Medical and Dental Centre, Soni Medical Centre- Newclare). Dr Hoosen can be contacted on 011 933 4096.

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