The silent danger of deep gum disease

The emerging link between our oral health and many other diseases has a very important consequence: it is easy to reduce the risk of periodontitis, and if you already have periodontitis, it can be effectively treated.

“If we brush our teeth correctly and maintain good oral hygiene, then we can potentially prevent the onset of periodontitis,” Wu said.

If the disease does occur, it can be treated in its early stages with scaling and root planing, which scrape away microorganisms from the lower surfaces of the teeth above and below the gum line. If you have severe periodontitis, the solution may include surgical treatment, “which means loosening the soft tissue of the gums and cleaning the root surface, and then putting the tissue back in,” says Holmstrup.

The problem lies in detection, since the disease is often asymptomatic and there is a common misconception that unless the tooth pain is severe, a visit to the dentist is not necessary. The solution is simple, too: If you already have an appointment, don't delay.

In the upcoming second part of this two-part story, BBC Future looks at the best evidence-based ways to brush your teeth and avoid this range of chronic diseases.

Martha Henriques is the author of bbc future planetand tweets @Martha_Rosamond

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