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Science
CASE NOTES
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Tuesday 21:00-21:30
Repeat Wednesday 16:30
Dr Mark Porter gives listeners the low-down on what the medical profession does and doesn't know. Each week an expert in the studio tackles a particular topic and there are reports from around the UK on the health of the nation - and the NHS.
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LISTEN AGAINListen 30 min
Listen to 18 May
PRESENTER
DR MARK PORTER
Dr Mark Porter
PROGRAMME DETAILS
Tuesday 18 May 2004
Teeth

Full programme transcript >>

Oral Health

This week’s Case Notes falls in National Smile Week, a promotion from dental charity, The British Dental Health Foundation. It’s their aim to get us more aware of oral health – not only how to brush our teeth but fighting bad breath, gum disease and mouth cancers. Case Notes is taking a look at these points too, and before you take your toothbrush up in mild panic, have a look at these facts:

- Nine out of 10 adults have some degree of gum disease.

- Over 20% of children aged three have severe tooth decay in their front teeth.

- 80% of women brush their teeth twice a day, compared to only 60% of men.

- Older people in residential care have poorer oral health than those living in their own homes.

- More children under 16 are having orthodontic treatment now than ever before.

Gum disease and other health problems
Why should you worry? Well gum disease is an indicator to other health problems.

Heart disease and strokes
Inflamed gums are a powerful predictor of a person’s odds of dying prematurely from heart disease and stroke, two of the UK’s biggest killers. German researchers have just published worrying new evidence that middle-aged men with severe gum disease are four times more likely to have a stroke than their peers with healthier gums. And American researchers have already identified a similar link with heart disease – people with gum disease are almost twice as likely to develop narrowing of the coronary arteries supplying the heart. The reason for the links remains unclear but it’s thought that inflammation in the mouth accelerates the formation of fatty deposits within arteries, furring up the circulation and increasing the odds of a stroke or heart attack.

Other health issues
And it’s not just circulatory problems that worry doctors and dentists. There is good evidence that gum disease can influence health in other ways, including increasing the odds of developing diabetes and bringing on premature labour – pregnant women with severe gum disease are four times more likely to go into labour early.

Gum disease
Mild gum disease is often painless. Early tell-tale signs are redness at the gum margin (where the gums meet the teeth), and bleeding after brushing. More severe cases can cause obvious swelling of the gums, bad breath and loose teeth – 1 in 7 of the population loses all their teeth before the age of 50 because of gum disease. 

Good dental hygiene
Prevention is the key. Good dental hygiene and regular visits to a dentist can stop gum disease developing, and help treat established cases.

Orthodontic treatment
Orthodontic treatment isn’t just consigned to children with wonky teeth anymore. About 4% of orthodontic treatment is done on adults. It is easy to get your teeth sorted out with braces and implants, but are we doing our mouths any favours? If it makes teeth easier to clean then it’s all well and good but what about cosmetic alterations to make our teeth whiter and straighter – are they worth the effort and money?

Case Notes sinks its teeth into Oral Health on Tuesday 18th May 2004 at 9pm and Wednesday 19th May at 4.30pm.
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