Answering all your ‘Can gum disease…’ queries

Gum disease is a problem that many people experience at some point. It is a condition where the gums become sore, swollen or infected, and bleeding when you brush your teeth is a tell-tale sign that you may have this problem.

Caused by a buildup of plaque on the teeth, gum disease can make your mouth feel irritated and sore, and lead to a number of potential health problems. So if you suspect that you have this condition, you should speak to a dental professional for advice. But what can actually happen if you have gum disease? In this article, we answer some of the most popular questions about this common dental problem and what you can do to treat and prevent it.[1]

Can gum disease make you sick?

While gum disease spells bad news for your dental health, it can cause problems for the rest of your body too, making you feel quite unwell. In fact, gum disease can increase your chances of developing serious health complications, such as diabetes, heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis. It can even cause problems in pregnancy too.[1]

Can gum disease cause bad breath?

Yes, gum disease can be to blame for halitosis, which is more commonly known as bad breath. Gum disease can be caused by a buildup of plaque along the gum line and in between your teeth, which can release an unpleasant odour, meaning your breath may smell.[2]

Can gum disease affect your throat?

A sore throat is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection, but as gum disease is connected with bad oral hygiene – it may increase your risk of having a sore throat.[3]

Can gum disease cause coughing?

While coughing is not usually a symptom of gum disease specifically, if the problem is left untreated, you could develop a further infection which may then spread to other parts of your body, such as your lungs. As a result of the infection, your lungs may become irritated and inflamed, and you could find that you feel the urge to cough.[1]

Can gum disease be impacted by hereditary factors?

The truth is, gum disease can be impacted by hereditary factors, so if you have a family history of this dental issue, you may be more likely to develop it yourself. Unfortunately, your genetic makeup is out of your control, but making an effort to maintain good dental hygiene can significantly reduce your chances of experiencing this problem.[1]

Can gum disease give you headaches?

Although gum disease does not directly cause a headache, you may feel like you have one if you’re suffering with this dental problem. The infection can cause a throbbing pain in your gums, mouth and even the jaw. So as a result, you may feel a sensation that is not dissimilar from a headache.[1]

Can gum disease cause heart problems?

In short, yes – gum disease can be the root cause of a number of different heart-related health issues. It’s proven that those with poor oral health have a much higher chance of developing cardiovascular problems, such as heart disease, heart attacks, strokes and blood clots, compared to those who practise healthy dental habits.

This is due to the fact that the bacteria that infects the gums and leads to gum disease can travel to blood vessels in other parts of the body, causing inflammation and damage that can then lead to blood clots, heart attacks and strokes.

What’s more, for those who are especially susceptible to gum disease, the body may overreact to the bacteria around the gums and cause excessive inflammation, while for others, this inflammation may not clear up properly. As a result, the severity of the gum inflammation can affect the bloodstream and in turn slowly damage the blood vessels in the heart over a long period of time.[1]

Can gum disease affect your tongue?

A sore tongue can occur alongside gum disease as another sign that you’re not taking good care of your oral health. So, since gum disease is a result of poor dental hygiene, you could find that you develop problems with this part of your mouth too.

For example, you may notice white patches on your tongue. This is known as oral thrush and it can be an indication that you need to brush more frequently.[4] More generally, your tongue might feel stale or it could even feel ‘furry’. Again, this could be a sign that you need to improve your dental hygiene regime, spending more time on brushing not just your teeth, but your tongue too.

Can gum disease be cured?

You can treat and prevent this problem by practising better oral hygiene, and you can have additional dental or medical interventions if it’s necessary.[1]

Good oral hygiene requires you to brush your teeth twice a day for approximately two minutes each time. You should brush your teeth at night, before you go to bed, and on one other occasion throughout the day, such as when you wake up or after you’ve eaten breakfast. You should also make sure you use a toothpaste containing 1,350 to 1,500ppm of fluoride, and it’s important that you floss or use interdental cleaners regularly. Ideally, you should do this daily and before you brush your teeth.[5]

You should also visit your dentist on a regular basis. According to the NHS, you may want to visit once every one or two years, but you can choose to go more frequently if you want to.[6]

Resources: 

[1] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/gum-disease/

[2] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/bad-breath/

[3] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sore-throat/ 

[4] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/oral-thrush-mouth-thrush/

[5] https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-teeth-and-gums/how-to-keep-your-teeth-clean/ 

[6] https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-teeth-and-gums/dental-check-ups/

Neil Kotak
28/2/2022
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