Hello everyone, Dr. Jason here,
I wanted to write about a topic that is often overlooked when it comes to overall dental hygiene—our gums! Dental hygiene predominately focuses on the importance of brushing, and how this leads to healthy teeth. With the focus almost solely on preserving the health of our teeth, sometimes we forget about our inconspicuous gums, whose sole job is to hold our teeth firmly in place, protect them from the elements, and keep our entire mouth nourished and healthy. In a nutshell, we need healthy gums in order to have healthy teeth, and a healthy body, too.
A 2012 CDC report found that more than 47% of adults living in the United States have some form of gum disease. If you are over the age of 65, that rate goes up to a whopping 70%.
So, What Exactly Is Gum (Periodontal) Disease?
Well, it is typically caused by two things: 1.) the presence of bacteria in the mouth, and 2.) places for that bacteria to congregate and stay. Most often, bacteria collect and buildup near or below the gum line. This buildup causes inflammation and irritation, triggering an immune response by the body. The mildest form of gum (periodontal) disease is called gingivitis. If your gums bleed when you brush or floss, at a minimum you have gingivitis. Left unchecked, this condition can create periodontal “pockets” or areas where the bacteria can collect deeper under the gum line. If left unchecked, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, which actually can break down the connection between the gums and the teeth.
What Are Symptoms Of Gum Disease?
Similar to people with high blood pressure or early onset diabetes, people in the early stages of gum disease may not even know they are affected for the fact that symptoms may be so mild that they can be easily ignored. However, some of the more severe symptoms include:
- Bad breath that won’t go away
- Red or swollen gums
- Tender or bleeding gums
- Painful chewing
- Loose teeth
- Sensitive teeth
- Receding gums or longer appearing teeth
Gum Disease Affects More Than Just Your Mouth
It is logical to assume that if left untreated gum disease can result in the loss of teeth, but that’s not all. Gum disease can also lead to serious health issues impacting other body parts, or at a minimum make certain existing conditions worse.
A 2011 study published in the Journal of Periodontology found a relationship between the presence of periodontal disease and the incidence of respiratory illnesses including pneumonia, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder) and acute bronchitis. Additional research has identified a variety of common risk factors associated with gum disease as well as heart disease, risk of stroke, presence of diabetes, and more.
More research is underway to examine a possible connection between the type of bacteria and chronic inflammation that occurs in the mouth, and bacteria that collect in the arteries which can cause certain types of heart disease.
In addition to the link research has revealed between gum disease and other body parts, research has also pointed to the negative effect gum disease has on fertility and premature labor.
A study in 2011 found that woman suffering from gum disease take on average two to three months longer to conceive than woman who don’t have active gum disease. Additionally, a 2010 study published in the Journal of Natural, Biology and Medicine found periodontal disease to be an independent risk factor for premature labor and low-birth-weight infants.
So, it would seem like I only have doom and gloom to share with you! But, there is good news too… Gum disease is treatable and most of the time can be fully cured. We can often detect the presence of gum disease, or the signs it may be
developing before you notice symptoms.
Plus, you can take three easy steps to help prevent gum disease:
- Brush your teeth every day to remove this bacteria from the surfaces of your teeth, and to help avoid cavities.
- Floss each day in order to remove the bacteria from between your teeth and around the gum line.
- Regular checkups and professional cleanings will help to remove any plaque, build-up (calculus) and bacteria that we aren’t able to reach during your regular oral hygiene routine at home.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions or concerns. Look forward to seeing you soon.