Oral bacteris could have a role to play in the flare-up of irritable bowel syndrome, new research suggests.
The findings, presented in the journal Oral Diseases, discovered that colitis, otherwise known as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), was aggravated by the presence of several oral bacteria.
The research also identified the virulent oral bacteria invaded the bloodstream, giving further ammunition to the growing belief gum disease could be linked to several health conditions.
IBS is a common condition of the digestive system, often brought on in periods of stress or having eaten certain foods. Symptoms first appear during 20-30s, and experts believe at least 261,000 people are affected by the disease, although some data suggests the actual figure could be double.
The research is another reminder of how looking after your mouth can keep your body healthy, and Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, explained some of the ways people can do that.
Dr Carter said: "The research gives a very clear indication that oral bacteria does have a role to play when it comes to IBS. It is the latest piece in a very long line of research that suggests what goes on in your mouth is linked to your body.
"If you suffer from IBS, this research shows that you need to keep your gums healthy. The mouth is often the first point of contact for many bugs, so it's important to make sure you're doing the right things to keep your mouth in pristine condition.
"My number one piece of advice is do the basics. Without these anything else becomes superfluous. Brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste, cut down on how often you have sugary foods and drinks and visit your dentist regularly, as often as they recommend. Once you are into a routine of doing these things, you can also clean in between your teeth with interdental brushes or floss and use a mouthwash.
"If you have swollen gums that bleed regularly when brushing, bad breath, loose teeth or regular mouth infections appear, it is likely you have gum disease."
Given the nature of irritable bowel syndrome, Dr Carter advised people to consider their diet to help alleviate symptoms as well as keep teeth healthy.
"IBS is a lifestyle-related disease, so it is important to begin to regulate your diet to minimise a flare-up", Dr Carter added. "The same dietary considerations need to be taken to ensure a good standard of oral health. It has been well-documented in the past that 'hidden nasties' have a leading role to play in the level of poor oral health that exists in the UK, not to mention the level of obesity.
"Latest statistics show more than two in three men and almost three in five women are obese. Even worse more than one in four children are also classified as obese. As well as having a crippling effect on the NHS, addressing the obesity issue takes up a significant amount of money that could otherwise be invested in dentistry. It really is all down to lifestyle choices."