Nothing to smile about

Published April 10, 2018, 12:05 AM


By Dr. Kaycee Reyes


Say cheese! A smile can say much about a person’s disposition, but did you know that your smile can say a lot about your health too? Oral health and hygiene is just as important as physical health; however, not everyone notices an infection or an oral inflammation until it is too late. Periodontal disease or periodontitis is a slow and progressive disease that may not only cause tooth loss, but it is linked to several, more serious diseases such as cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and diabetes that is clearly nothing to smile about.


Periodontitis, also called gum disease or periodontal disease, is known as a “silent” disease because it is not always painful. It begins with gingivitis or gum inflammation where there is bacteria buildup or plaque, causing the gums to be sensitive or irritated. The teeth are still intact; however, if the gingivitis is left untreated, or if plaque buildup becomes too hard to remove (tartar), it can lead to periodontitis where both the gum and the bone are affected, causing the tooth to become loose and eventually fall out. This is a gradual process that may take years, and some individuals do not even know that they have it until the signs become more obvious. Some signs of periodontitis to watch out for are:

– Bleeding gums and/or teeth while brushing or eating

– Bad breath

– Movement or changes in the teeth’s alignment

– Pain (for some); and

– Lengthening of teeth or widening tooth gap

Aside from poor oral hygiene, periodontitis may also be caused by other factors such as:

– Weak immune system

– Smoking

– Presence of other diseases such as diabetes, cancer, or HIV

– Taking certain medications that affect oral health

– Hormonal changes such as pregnancy and menopause

– Family history of oral problems

Are Filipinos at risk of periodontitis? Filipinos are well-known for their hospitality and their smiles that they continue to show amidst their problems and obstacles. According to the National Monitoring and Evaluation Dental Survey conducted by the DOH back in 2011, however, as high as 87 percent of Filipinos from that year’s population have tooth decay, and more alarming is that 77 percent, or every seven out of 10 Filipinos, have never even visited a dentist. It is no wonder then that in Asia, it has also been reported that Filipinos are among the most with filled and damaged teeth compared to their Asian counterparts. Given these alarming statistics, it will not be surprising if periodontitis rates among Filipinos are high as well. To prevent periodontitis, practicing good oral hygiene is a must, and can be done by:

– Regular visits to the dentist and a thorough clean every six months

– Brushing and flossing after every meal

– Antibacterial or fluoride mouth rinses are a good addition too, with the recommendation of your dentist

– More importantly, follow-up checkups with your dentist is a must to keep teeth in check

Periodontitis will keep Filipinos from smiling, this is why oral health should be regarded as important as overall health. Why Filipinos neglect oral health may be because of having little access to oral care, expensive dentist fees, fear or stigma of experiencing pain when going to the dentist, and more importantly, there is a lack of placing emphasis on oral hygiene in schools, communities, and at home. If this goes on, the consequences of poor oral health are irreversible and can be severe. Linked to poor oral health are physical conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, gastrointestinal problems, and also psychological as well like poor self-esteem and lack of confidence that may affect one’s quality of life. Practice good oral hygiene now, so you can keep smiling later on.