Are your gums red and inflamed? Silently, lurking in your mouth without your knowledge could be early or late signs of gum disease. If caught soon, gingivitis can be cured. If neglected, periodontitis could lead to permanent tooth loss, heart disease and more.
What Is Gum Disease?
Many adults in the United States currently have gum disease and don’t even know it.
Periodontal diseases range from simple gum inflammation called gingivitis to the more serious disease called periodontitis that can cause major damage to the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth. In the early stages, the progress can be stopped by brushing, flossing, using mouthwash, and having a professional teeth cleaning. In later stages, your dentist may need to resort to scaling, planning, giving you medications or even surgery.
If you have periodontal disease, you are not alone. People usually show symptoms of gum disease in their 30s and 40s, and men are more likely than women to develop it. Teenagers usually get the milder form of gingivitis due to poor oral hygiene. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research:
Prevalence of Periodontal Disease
- 8.52% of adults age 20 to 64 have periodontal disease.
- Older adults, Black and Hispanic adults, current smokers, and those with lower incomes and less education are more likely to have periodontal disease.
Prevalence of Severe Periodontal disease
- 5.08% of adults 20 to 64 have moderate or severe periodontal disease.
- Older adults, Black and Hispanic adults, current smokers, and those with lower incomes and less education are more likely to have moderate/severe periodontal disease.
What Are The Forms of Gum Disease?
There are two major forms of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis occurs when bacteria and plaque build-up on your teeth, causing your gums to be red, swollen and bleeding. Although the gums may be inflamed, if properly treated, the disease can stop here. If not, it can advance to periodontitis, which is when the inner layer of the gum and bone pull away from the teeth and form pockets. These pockets can become infected. This is when the toxins or bacteria break down the bones and tissue holding the teeth in place. Without these anchors, teeth start to fall out.
What are the symptoms of gum disease?
According to the American Academy of Periodontology, the following are some of the symptoms you may experience if you have gum disease:
- Swollen or tender gums
- Gums that bleed while brushing, flossing or eating hard foods
- Receding gums
- Bad breath or bad taste in your mouth
- Sores in your mouth
- Pus between your gums and teeth
- Deep pockets between the teeth and gums
- Gums changing in color from pink to dusky red
- Loose teeth
Want to know if you are at risk? Take this assessment
How Can Gum Disease Affect Overall Health?
They say that the mouth is often a mirror to your overall health. Research has made a firm connection between gum disease and the following diseases:
Diabetic patients are more likely to develop periodontal disease, which in turn can increase blood sugar and diabetic complications.
- Heart Disease
Although an exact cause and effect has not been determined, people with periodontal disease are more prone to heart disease.
If the density of your bone is already diminished by gum disease, this can lead to further bone less in the jaw.
Men with gum disease are 49% more likely to develop kidney cancer, 54% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, and 30% more likely to develop blood cancers.
- Respiratory Disease
The bacteria in your mouth can travel into your lungs and can cause pneumonia and other infections.
Who Should Treat Periodontal Disease?
Periodontists are experts in treating periodontal disease, having received up to three additional years of specialized training in both surgical and plastic surgery procedures for periodontal disease. Talk to your dentist about treatments for your specific stage of the disease.
How Can You Prevent Gum Disease?
- Stop smoking
Cigarette smokers and tobacco users are extremely susceptible to gum disease.
- Brush, Floss & Brush Some More
The #1 action you can take to prevent periodontal disease is to brush, floss and use mouthwash after every meal.
- Visit your dentist semi- annually
If you have any signs of gum disease, you will need to visit your dentist at least twice/year.
- Avoid clenching and grinding your teeth
These actions can put additional stress and pressure on your teeth.
Despite your best efforts, certain people are genetically predisposed to gum disease. If it runs in your family, be sure to tell your dentist.
Good oral health extends beyond your teeth. A healthy diet, exercise and brushing your teeth regularly can go a long way toward preventing gum disease. Like any disease, once you have it, it can be difficult to get rid of it.Periodontitis is common but largely preventable. .. It’s never too late.
About The Author
Dr. Jeffrey Pass, DDS, has been in private practice since 1987 and emphasizes cosmetic, restorative, and implant dentistry. A graduate of NYU College of Dentistry, Dr. Pass practiced privately in Manhattan, NY prior to establishing South Florida Dental Care in 1993. He regularly attends continuing education classes and is a member of the American Dental Association, South Florida District Dental Association, South Broward Dental Society, and the Florida branch of The Seattle Study Club.