Gum disease is one of the many conditions dentists have to fight against when they go to work. Oral healthcare does not just extend to keeping your teeth pristine, after all, as gums can get very uncomfortable if they are not kept clean. However, discomfort is not the only issue people with this condition can face.
Gum disease has already been linked to several other conditions in different areas of the body, including problems with the heart. However, new research has suggested that it could also make colitis – also known as irritable bowel disease (IBD) – worse by aggravating the symptoms.
Research published in the Journal of Oral Diseases revealed that oral bacteria exacerbated the effects of IBD. The microbes had entered the bloodstream from the mouth, and travelled through the body. This in turn lends more credence to the idea that gum disease can increase the risk of other, seemingly unrelated diseases.
Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, said: “The research gives a very clear indication that oral bacteria does have a role to play when it comes to IBD. If you suffer from IBD, this research shows that you need to keep your gums healthy.”
Colitis affects about one person in every 250 in the UK. This equates to around 210,000 people: 120,000 with ulcerative colitis and 90,000 with Crohn’s disease. Sufferers must tightly regulate their lifestyles, managing their diet so as to avoid a flare-up of symptoms, and it is thought now that they should also take care of their oral health.
Luckily, spotting gum disease is easy. Symptoms include gums that bleed regularly when brushing, bad breath, loose teeth and regular mouth infections. In order to prevent this, people should brush regularly with a fluoride toothpaste and use a mouthwash.
“My number one piece of advice is do the basics,” said Dr Carter. “The mouth is often the first point of contact for many bugs, so it’s important to make sure you’re doing the right things to keep your mouth in pristine condition.”