Gum disease can lead to loss of teeth and worsen other conditions, say experts

SINGAPORE – When fitness trainer Gerard Yeo felt a sharp pain in his mouth one morning, he was horrified to discover that his gums were bleeding badly, but he wiped it off again and chose not to see a dentist.

Mild pain and bleeding in his gums had been a part of his life for more than 25 years since he was a teenager, but the problem eventually became unbearable and he decided to bite the bullet and visit a dentist.

That's when he was diagnosed with periodontitis, a serious form of gum disease that, if left untreated, can destroy the bone that supports teeth, causing them to fall out.

Mr. Yang, who was 38 at the time, had three teeth extracted and part of his gum surgically removed.

He told The Straits Times: “When I was 35, my gums started to hurt, the bleeding was increasing, and my teeth felt loose.

“I don't want to go to the dentist because I'm worried it will be painful. I'm also worried about the cost.

Mr Young, 43, said he regretted not having regular dental check-ups, which could have prevented gum disease from getting worse and causing long-term damage to his teeth.

“Now, without dentures, I can no longer enjoy my favorite snacks such as cassava chips and cereal tiger prawns because I cannot chew properly,” he added.

Mr Yeo is just one of thousands of Singaporeans suffering from gum disease.

A 2019 poll of 1,196 adult Singaporeans from different family types and ethnic backgrounds found that 90 per cent suffered from some form of gum disease.

The poll, called the National Adult Oral Health Survey, conducted by SingHealth and the National Dental Center Singapore, also found that just over half (or 53.9%) of participants visited the dentist at least once a year.

Additionally, 34.4% only seek dental care when there is a problem with their teeth, mouth, or dentures.

Dr Dawn Siow, associate consultant at the National Dental Center in Singapore who specializes in periodontal disease or gum-related diseases, said the high prevalence of gum disease among adults in Singapore is due to less frequent dental visits.

She added that a lack of awareness about gum health was a key issue, with 25.7% of participants in the 2019 survey (the latest available data) not knowing what causes gum disease.

As for ways to prevent gum disease, 47.5% of people don’t know that regular brushing is important, and 78.9% don’t know that regular dental check-ups are also important.

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