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Are your gums really killing you? Failing to brush properly could have dire consequences and lead to deadly diseases

Study has found that diabetes, heart disease and many types of cancer can all be linked to gum disease and the public are being urged to brush more effectively

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Cancer risk rises 20 per cent for people with gum disease(Image: Getty Images)

Skipping a session of teeth brushing can lead to ­bigger health problems than just nasty gnashers.

Research has now linked gum disease to cancer, joining a list that already included things such as diabetes and heart disease.

So what are the dangers – and what can we do to beat them?

The risk of any form of cancer goes up by almost 20 per cent in people with gum disease.

Scientists at New York State University at Buffalo believe the bacteria spread to the blood – and cause an inflammation that triggers tumour growth.

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People are also being advised to floss regularly(Image: Getty Images)

They linked poorly brushed teeth to a significantly increased risk of breast, oral, lung, skin, gallbladder and throat cancers.

The results, from an eight-year study of 65,000 women in their late 60s, matched similar results in previous studies on men.

Throat cancer was found to have the biggest risk, with ­unhealthy gums increasing its incidence by up to three times. Prof Jean Wactawski-Wende, the lead researcher, said: “The ­oesophagus is close to the mouth so gum bacteria more easily gain access to promote cancer risk.”

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Throat cancer is the most common type linked to poor gum health(Image: Getty Images)

Dr Uchenna Okoye, a leading cosmetic dentist who runs the London Smiling clinic, says: “Gum disease has also been linked to heart disease, diabetes and even dementia.

“It shows it is vital that people think about total ­well-being. Gum health is key to not just teeth but the whole body.”

Here are some of the risks of not looking after your gums:

HEART DISEASE AND STROKE

A number of studies have linked oral health with heart health.

Research suggests increased bacteria in the mouth make the body produce “inflammatory markers” harming blood vessels that supply the heart and brain.

DIABETES

It has been known for some time that people with diabetes are more susceptible to gum disease.

But recent studies found the link might work both ways – and that gum disease can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes by affecting your insulin response.

ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE

A team at the University of Central Lancashire School of Medicine and Dentistry found poor oral hygiene increased risk of Alzheimer’s. Bacteria may reach the brain and the ­immune response kills brain cells.

LUNG PROBLEMS

Your mouth leads to your ­airways, which lead to your lungs. If your mouth contains bacteria, you are likely to breathe it in and cause infection.

MISCARRIAGE

Miscarriage or premature birth is up to three times more likely in women with gum disease – perhaps due to inflammation of arteries supplying the womb.

REDUCING THE RISK

  • People brush for an average of 47 seconds. It should be two min­utes, before breakfast and bed. Include where teeth meet gums.
  • Power brushes are twice as ­effective as manual.
  • Floss to get rid of bacteria that gather between teeth.