DO you know that the blood you see on your gums, either during or after brushing your teeth, is not isolated to your oral cavity but originates from your body as a whole?
Gum bleeding serves as the initial warning sign of gum-related issues that can generally be categorised into two types: gingivitis, which primarily impacts gum tissue, and periodontitis, a more severe condition that affects the gums and also damages the underlying bone supporting your teeth.
When oral hygiene practices do not effectively remove plaque and maintain optimal gum health, an imbalance arises between beneficial and harmful bacteria inhabiting our mouths. Bad bacteria thrive in this environment, triggering an immune response from our body manifested as inflammation visible as redness in and bleeding of the gums.
Findings from the Malaysia National Oral Health Survey revealed that a striking 90% of the Malaysian population has experienced various degrees of gum bleeding issues – but only a small fraction takes this early warning sign seriously.
Over time, unaddressed gum bleeding can escalate into severe periodontitis, a stage where teeth may become unstable and, in some cases, even dislodge from their sockets.
But you can just opt for dentures or dental implants to replace the teeth that have been lost, can’t you?
What you may not be aware of is that losing teeth marks not the end of the story but the start of a more severe health concern. A recent study conducted by the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom, sheds light on the persistent and heightened immune response individuals experience in the face of chronic bacterial challenges, even after tooth loss.
This prolonged hyperresponsive state of the immune system leads to dysregulation and ongoing consequences. Consequently, individuals with severe periodontitis face a higher risk of developing general health issues, including but not limited to diabetes, heart problems, Alzheimer’s, and even cancer.
In a retrospective study examining the dental records of patients at Universiti Malaya’s Faculty of Dentistry, undergraduate students made the striking observation that people with severe periodontitis often presented with conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, or a combination of these health concerns.
This is why it is vital to pay attention to the signals your body is giving. It is not OK to have your gums bleeding every now and then. Visit the dentist to address the problem, and if it doesn’t resolve after a month, ask to see a periodontist, a gum specialist.
Early state gum inflammation is reversible through professional treatment and customised advice for homecare. Once the disease has destroyed bone surrounding the teeth, it is no longer reversible but can still be controlled from progressing further. However, this requires regular reviews with the dentist or specialist every few months, a lifelong monitoring of both gum conditions and general health.
So get treatment as early as possible to prevent the progression of the disease to a severe stage.
DR CHEAH CHIA WEI
Consultant periodontist and senior lecturer
Department of Restorative Dentistry
Faculty of Dentistry