The profound consequences of bad teeth

The emerging links between our oral health and this host of other conditions have a very important effect: it is easy to reduce your risk of contracting periodontitis and to treat it effectively if you already have it.

“If we brush our teeth properly and have good oral hygiene, we can potentially prevent the onset of periodontitis,” says Wu.

If the disease sets in, it can be treated in the early stages with scaling and root planing, which removes microbes from the bottom surface of the tooth above and just below the gum line. If you have severe periodontitis, the solution may include surgical treatment, “which means you loosen the soft tissues of the gums and clean the root surfaces, and put the tissue back in place,” 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 dental pain, you don’t need to go to the dentist. Again, the solution is simple: if you have an appointment, do not 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 cohort of chronic conditions.

Martha Henriques is editor-in-chief of BBC future planetand tweet to @Martha_Rosamund

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