Gum disease can damage a person's general health

  • General news
123 St Stephen's Green

The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), the Irish Dental Hygienists Association and Dublin Dental University Hospital today launched a medical information leaflet for patients to raise awareness of gum disease; a silent disease that can damage a person's general health and is a potential risk factor for cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, bacterial pneumonia, rheumatoid arthritis and other systemic disorders.

The medical information leaflet which explains the causes, symptoms and how to prevent gum disease is available today for patients to pick up free from dental surgeries, dental hygienists, cardio departments in hospitals and pharmacy's around the country.

Dr Steve Kerrigan, Senior Lecturer in Pharmacology in RCSI said: "Gum disease is a chronic infection of the tissues surrounding the teeth, leading to red, swollen and tender gums. When most people think of a healthy smile, they picture straight white teeth. Many people never stop to consider the health of the gums and bone supporting the teeth that allow for a nice smile. Over time, the inflammation as a result of gum disease causes the gums and bones surrounding the teeth to recede and teeth to fall out, changing the overall look of a person's face, mouth and smile."

Gum disease is a silent disease, because often at the early stages, there are no symptoms and many people may not be aware they have a problem until it turns in to a severe case.

Symptoms of gum disease include:

  • Dark red or swollen gums
  • Tender or bleeding gums
  • Pain when biting on food
  • Gums that have been pulled away or low down from the tooth
  • Persistent bad breath

Gum disease affects four out of five people in Ireland and the level of gum disease worsens as we get older. Common lifestyle and dietary factors such as smoking, obesity and stress in addition to hormonal changes and some prescription medications can cause gum disease.

To maintain your dental health, Ms Susan Johnston, president of the Irish Dental Hygienists Association commented that "By maintaining your dental health, not only are you helping to support your overall health, but also ensuring your smile lasts a lifetime". She further recommends brushing teeth and gums twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, and flossing teeth or using interdental brushes once a day. Avoid sugary snacks between meals and visit your dentist and dental hygienist at least once a year.