Note from FAN: Ireland is the only country to have mandatory fluoridation
Gum disease affects four out of five people in Ireland, but many may be unaware they have the condition because there are often no symptoms in the early stages, dental health professionals have warned.
They have just launched a new medical information leaflet aimed at raising awareness of the disease.
According to Dr Steve Kerrigan, of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), gum disease is a chronic infection of the tissues surrounding the teeth. This can lead 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,” he explained.
Gum disease is often considered a ‘silent disease’ because many people have no symptoms in the early stages and do not realise they have a problem until it becomes more severe. Symptoms can include swollen gums, bleeding gums – particularly after brushing – pain when biting food and gums that appear pulled away or low down from the teeth.
The leaflet was launched by the RCSI, the Irish Dental Hygienists Association (IDHA) and Dublin Dental University Hospital. It emphasises that gum disease can affect general health and is thought to be a risk factor for other serious conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.
Gum disease worsens as a person gets older and some common lifestyle factors, such as smoking and obesity, can cause it.
“By maintaining your dental health, not only are you helping to support your overall health, but also ensuring your smile lasts a lifetime,” commented IDHA president, Susan Johnston.
She recommended that people brush their teeth and gums twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, and floss once a day. Sugary snacks between meals should be avoided and people should visit their dentist and dental hygienist at least once a year.
The leaflet is now available in dental surgeries, hospital cardio departments and pharmacies nationwide. It can also be downloaded here