The risks of gum disease

The state of your teeth affects your overall health. Gum disease is linked to lots of health problems in other parts of the body. Brushing your teeth can prevent gum disease and improve your overall health too.

Spot gum disease

Signs of gum disease include:

  • Gums that bleed when you brush your teeth
  • Blood in your saliva
  • Red, swollen gums
  • Bad breath
  • Wobbly or loose teeth
  • Abscessed teeth
  • Tooth loss

If you're concerned that you may have gum disease, visit your dentist. 

Did you know that gum disease isn’t just bad news for your teeth, it’s also linked to serious health problems in other parts of your body?

Gum disease increases your risk of all kinds of other health complications, including stroke, diabetes and heart disease.

Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, explains: “The link between oral health and overall body health is well documented and backed by robust scientific evidence. Despite this, only one in six people realises that people with gum disease may have an increased risk of stroke or diabetes. And only one in three is aware of the heart disease link.”

Gum disease dangers

Gum disease is an infection of the tissues that support the teeth. It's mainly caused by bacteria from plaque build-up. In some patients who are susceptible to gum disease, the body over-reacts to the bacteria around the gums and causes too much inflammation. In others, the inflammation doesn’t clear up properly. The result of the intense gum inflammation is that it also affects the bloodstream and is believed slowly to damage blood vessels in the heart and brain over a long time period.

What’s the damage?

Gum disease has been linked to a variety of other health problems, including:

Preventing problems

The good news is that brushing your teeth properly and looking after your gums can prevent and treat gum disease, improve your overall health and help reduce your risk of health problems, such as heart disease.

Follow a routine of brushing your teeth for a full two minutes twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, plus cleaning between your teeth with floss or interdental brushes.

Visit your dentist and dental hygienist regularly for cleaning and check-ups. It’s especially important to look after your teeth and gums if you’re pregnant. NHS dental care is free for pregnant women and during the 12 months after you've given birth.

Find out more about how to brush your teeth properly.

Page last reviewed: 02/12/2013

Next review due: 02/12/2015

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