The far-reaching consequences of bad teeth

The emerging links between our oral health and this multitude of other conditions have a very important result: it’s easy to lower your risk of periodontal disease and to treat it effectively if you already have it.

“If we brush our teeth well and have good oral hygiene, we may be able to prevent the onset of periodontal disease,” Wu says.

If the disease does occur, it can be treated in the early stages with scaling and root planing, which scrape microbes from the lower tooth surface above and just below the gumline. If you have severe periodontitis, the solution may be surgical treatment, “which means loosening the soft tissue of the gums and cleaning the root surfaces and replacing the tissue,” says Holmstrup.

The problem is detection, due to the often asymptomatic nature of the disease coupled with the common misconception that unless you have severe toothaches, you don’t need to go to the dentist. Here too, the solution is simple: if you have an appointment, don’t wait too long.

In the upcoming second part of this two-part story, BBC Future examines the best, fact-based ways to brush your teeth — and avoid this cohort of chronic disease.

Martha Henriques is editor of BBC Future Planetand tweets on @Martha_Rosamund

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