As new research examines a link between gum disease and female fertility, it seems like a good time to ask a dentist some questions about how to combat gum disease

For years, women trying for a baby have been advised to stop smoking, eat healthily and cut down on their drinking. But the importance of good dental health care to the chances of conception has not been stressed – that is until now…

If you want to get treatment for gum disease then you should visit a dentist with a good hygienist. London dental practice Ethicare prides itself on having the expertise to clean away the plaque which causes gum disease.

Dr. Glafcos Tombolis, who, with his wife Klaudia, runs Ethicare, has long-been aware of the link between dental health and overall health and so is not surprised that research conducted by the University of Western Australia examined the relationship between oral health and female fertility.

A study of 3,500 women found that women with gum disease took over seven months to conceive. The normal time period is five months.

So  how can you guard against gum disease?

I asked London dentist Dr Tombolis some questions about gum disease to try and find out more about how to detect and treat this condition.

Question: In your experience, how common is gum disease?

Glafcos Tombolis: I would say about 80-90 per cent of people suffer from gingivitis which is characterised by bleeding and swollen gums. In the region of 20% are susceptible to periodontitis.  Periodontitis is one step on from gingivitis and is a more serious problem to deal with.

Q: The term ‘gum disease’ seems to refer to gingivitis and periodontitis. Which is harder to treat?

Periodontitis – it’s harder to say and a little more challenging to treat. Gingivitis refers to inflammation of the gums – there should be no long-term side-effects of treating it. Periodontal disease can develop after someone has had gingivitis for a considerable time; it involves losing supporting tissue under the bone. This can cause painful sensitivity and if it is not treated, a tooth may fall out.

Q: How is gum disease most often discovered?

GT: The problem is often discovered by the patient themselves; perhaps they can see blood on their toothbrush or see that their gums are bleeding in their bathroom mirror. The sight of a severe build-up of plaque – the cause of gum disease – is pretty unsightly too and such things are often the trigger for a trip to us and a diagnosis of gum disease. Normally, there is no pain associated with gingivitis, so it is equally as likely that we will identify gum disease at a check-up – another good reason to continue attending appointments.

Q: How accurately can you predict whether treatment will work?

GT: I would say 99 per cent of the time if patients follow the hygiene instruction that we give them.  It’s important for patients to realise that cleaning at home is just as important as the physical treatment they receive at the practice.

Q: How vital is it for dentists to give advice about cleaning teeth so that patients can overcome gum disease?

GT: It’s very important. At Ethicare, our hygienist is happy to tell patients about the best flossing techniques and how using little brushes between your teeth and electric toothbrushes can make a big difference. Everyone has different dental care needs and we know that people appreciate us drawing up a home-care programme to suit their needs.

Q: What can you say to reassure a patient who is worried about their gum disease? It’s such a horrible phrase!

GT: I would say that the majority of gingivitis cases can be reversed without any long-term damage. With periodontal disease, if damage is not severe to the supporting tissue then there is no reason it should get worse.

We can – and do – arrest cases of gum disease all the time. It was established last year that there definitely is a link between gum disease and heart disease so letting a dentist help you with your oral health can be a really positive way of looking after your overall health.

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