Why gum health matters

Did you know healthy gums prevent heart disease, memory loss and diabetes? Here's to flossing!

When we think of oral health, our focus tends to be on teeth. However, gum health is an integral part of dental and oral health and can also play a significant role in the overall health of your body.

Periodontal disease, or gum disease, affects most people at some stage in their life. This is a condition whereby the gums become inflamed due to a build up of plaque around the teeth, which can lead to loss of the supporting bone, and may ultimately result in teeth needing to be taken out. The two stages of gum disease are gingivitis and periodontitis.

Why gum health matters

No matter how great the condition of your teeth, they require healthy gums to support them. Your gums serve as a seal around your teeth, protecting sensitive tissues underneath.

When bacteria (which are contained in plaque) are allowed to accumulate on gums, they become inflamed and can swell, which provides even more places for plaque to hide. This continual irritation of gum tissues can lead to gum recession, bone loss and loose teeth.

But it’s not just your teeth that are affected by gum health. Here are some other ways gum health can impact your overall wellbeing.

“Your gums serve as a seal around your teeth, protecting sensitive tissues underneath.”

Healthy gums may help lower heart disease

One of the first reports concerning poor oral health (including periodontal or gum disease) as a predictor of heart disease was in 1989. Over the past two decades many observational studies in humans have consistently demonstrated a relationship between periodontal disease and heart disease.

Importantly, some studies have shown that when poor oral health and gums are treated in individuals with cardiovascular disease, the patients’ overall health can improve.

Healthy gums may help boost your memory

According to a report in The Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, researchers have noticed a link between performance on memory tests and gum health.  Study participants with gingivitis – marked by swollen, sensitive gums – consistently performed poorly in memory tests when compared to those with healthy gums.

Healthy gums and overall health

Not only is cardiovascular disease associated with periodontal disease, but a number of other systemic conditions are also linked, including diabetes, adverse pregnancy outcomes, rheumatoid arthritis, lung disease and kidney disease.

Diabetes in particular has a strong link to oral health and can worsen a gum condition. Conversely, untreated gum disease can adversely affect diabetic control.

Apart from increasing the risk of tooth loss, gum disease can also adversely affect speech, nutrition, self-esteem and quality of life.

“Diabetes has a strong link to oral health. Untreated gum disease can adversely affect diabetic control.”

Can gum disease be genetic?

It is now believed that there is a strong genetic component that determines an individual’s oral health. It is now recognised in particular that there is more to gum disease than just simple plaque accumulation around teeth.

How to prevent gum disease

  • Brush your teeth effectively and thoroughly twice a day. Ask your dentist for advice if you are unsure of the best brushing techniques.
  • Use dental floss to clean in between your teeth.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Have regular dental check-ups, especially if you are pregnant or have diabetes, as these conditions increase your risk of gum disease

See your dentist or oral health professional if you have swollen or bleeding gums. Getting treated early can help save teeth that are at risk from gum disease and other conditions.

Some medications can cause problems with the gums. In particular some medications used for managing epilepsy and high blood pressure can cause enlargement of the gums, which hinders good cleaning and thus leads to ongoing periodontal problems. If this becomes advanced then surgical removal of the enlarged gums may become necessary.

Follow the Oral Health Advisory Panel on twitter @OHAPanel to stay up to date with practical advice on good oral health habits.

Recommended reading - Recipes on-the-go

Lifestyle

On-the-go breakfast ideas

Easy, delicious ways to kickstart your morning - even when you’re in a rush.

Read more
Recipes

6 quick and easy breakfast ideas

6 easy and healthy breakfast ideas for an inspiring start to the day.

Read more
Recipes

Quick and easy pizza dough recipe

Chef Adrian Richardson’s foolproof pizza dough recipe is ideal for simple summer meals.

Read more
Recipes

Banana buckwheat pancake recipe

There's nothing quite like pancakes for breakfast. Enjoy this wholesome recipe from Lesh Karan.

Read more
Recipes

Homemade Toasted Muesli recipe

This muesli is quick and so yummy – especially when you have a serve straight from the oven.

Read more
Recipes

Coco-Cacao Truffles Recipe

Power up your afternoon with these scrummy treats

Read more
Recipes

Apple and oat pancakes recipe

Warm, oaty pancakes served with rich stewed apples – the perfect way to brighten up your weekend

Read more
Recipes

Roasted apricot yellow couscous with grilled fish recipe

Bill Granger believes in a relaxed approach to good food. Here, he shares a family favourite.

Read more
Recipes

Avocado smash recipe

Avocados are an Australian breakfast staple. Try an Italian twist on your avocado smash.

Read more
Recipes

Vietnamese pho soup recipe

Fresh, healthy Vietnamese Pho soup recipe you can make at home.

Read more
Recipes

Asparagus, leek and pea tart recipe

Asparagus, Leek and Pea Tart is a delicious and easy dish for lunch or dinner.

Read more
Recipes

Sticky date pancake recipe

Wind up your weekend workouts and treat yourself with these delicious sticky date pancakes.

Read more
Recipes

Barbecued island beef recipe

A dish inspired by coconuts and green pastures

Read more
Lifestyle

Salsa verde recipe

This classic condiment by Peter Kuruvita is great with anything, especially barbecued meat

Read more
Recipes

Vietnamese salad recipe

A fresh, healthy summer salad that’s perfect for lunches.

Read more
Recipes

Cucumber and corn salsa recipe

A refreshing corn salsa perfect for summer.

Read more
Recipes

Simple berry bircher recipe

A bircher muesli that takes 2 minutes to prepare - leave overnight and enjoy for breakfast.

Read more
Lifestyle

Carrot and lentil salad recipe

Brighten your day with this hearty salad

Read more
Recipes

Quinoa sushi bowl recipe

Love sushi? Try this unwrapped quinoa sushi bowl recipe for an interesting variation.

Read more
Recipes

Persimmon, rocket, blue cheese and candied walnut salad recipe

The softly sweet taste of persimmons brings Poh Ling Yeow's fresh and healthy salad to life

Read more
Recipes

Cherry smoothie recipe

Cool down this summer with a low-fat smoothie packed full of cherry superpowers.

Read more
Recipes

BBQ lamb cutlets recipe with a yoghurt, feta and mint dipping sauce

five:am yogurt provide natural, healthy products. Here they share a delicious recipe for lamb.

Read more
Recipes

Grilled peaches with vanilla ricotta recipe

Enjoy the last of this season's peaches with this delicious recipe from Rachael Finch.

Read more
Recipes

Prawn and mango salad recipe

To kick off Australia's Healthy Weight Week, Sprout Cooking shares a fresh and juicy salad recipe.

Read more
Recipes

Peach and ham crispbread recipe

Savour the stone fruits and impress your guests with a tasty appetiser by Rachael Finch.

Read more
Lifestyle

Pumpkin soup recipe

This simple winter favourite is spicy and fragrant with ginger, nutmeg and cumin

Read more
Recipes

Chargrilled Mediterranean and macadamia salad recipe

The creamy goodness of Australian macadamias paired with chargrilled Mediterranean veggies

Read more
Recipes

Butternut pumpkin tagine recipe

Infused with spices and full of flavour, this pumpkin tagine is comfort food you feel good about.

Read more
Recipes

Lentil shepherd’s pie recipe

A tasty vegetarian twist on a classic, this tasty pie is what chilly winter days were made for.

Read more
Recipes

Thai pumpkin soup recipe

Creamy smooth pumpkin soup with a kick of hot chilli, fragrant lemongrass and coriande.

Read more
Recipes

Crumbed chicken and salsa in pita recipe

Emily Rose Brott shares a great chicken recipe for kids.

Read more
Recipes

Minestrone soup recipe

This minestrone by Dani of Fitness, Food and Style is packed full of antioxidants.

Read more

For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are instructions on how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.