February is Gum Disease Prevention Month. Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is a widespread condition that’s potentially serious, but is easy to prevent with a little knowledge.
And far more is at stake than the health of your mouth. Research has established that gum health is closely tied to the well-being of your entire body.
Read on to learn more about periodontal disease, its relationship with systemic problems, and how you can prevent it.
And call Smile Creations of Neenah, WI at 920-243-4122 for a cleaning and exam.
Gum Disease Is Common
The Centers for Disease Control has some startling facts about the prevalence of periodontal disease. Almost half of Americans over the age of thirty have some form of it, and over seventy percent of Americans over the age of 65. Indeed, it is an epidemic. Also noteworthy is the fact that it — and not cavities — is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. Without healthy, stable, gum tissue to hold them in place, teeth will inevitably become loose and eventually fall out.
Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria that proliferate in the mouth, infecting the gum tissue and surrounding bone. It is categorized into two stages. The first, and easiest to treat, is called gingivitis. Signs you may have this early-stage disease include:
- Swollen, tender, and red gums
- Gums that begin to pull away from the teeth
- Bleeding when you brush or floss
- Pockets between the teeth and gums
- Persistent bad breath
- Teeth that appear longer than before
But gingivitis can take hold without you even realizing it’s there. So regular checkups are a must, even if you think your gums are in great shape!
Left untreated, gingivitis will develop into the much more serious periodontitis. Symptoms of this stage include everything listed above, plus:
- More severe gum recession
- Discoloration of the gums
- Pus emerging along the gumline
- Loose teeth
- Pain while chewing
- A change in your bite
Health Effects of Periodontal Disease
The most obvious consequence of periodontal disease, aside from pain and immediate symptoms, is that your gums and jawbone will deteriorate and become unable to support your teeth. But at the root of the issue are bacteria, and they have the ability to wreak havoc throughout your body.
If bacteria escape into your bloodstream, they can trigger sepsis, a potentially deadly system-wide infection.
Periodontal disease has also been linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even cancer. Bacteria from the mouth may travel toward the heart, causing inflammation and hardening of essential blood vessels. This makes it difficult for blood to get through, increasing the likelihood that you’ll suffer a heart attack or stroke.
Diabetes has long been known to be a major risk factor in developing gum disease, possibly because diabetics are more susceptible to infections in general. Diabetes also increases your chances of losing teeth to gum problems. Research has shown that gum disease makes it more difficult for diabetics to keep their blood sugar under control, thus putting them in danger of developing diabetic complications.
Although research on the subject is still early, there is evidence that periodontal problems increase a person’s likelihood of developing certain types of cancer.
How to Prevent Periodontal Disease
While some risk factors — such as age and genetic factors — for gum problems are beyond your control, there are ways you can minimize your risk:
- Practice good oral hygiene. Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria, and proper brushing and flossing will help keep your oral bacterial populations under control. So brush for two minutes morning and night, floss daily, and use mouthwash.
- If you smoke or use other tobacco products, do what you have to do to stop. Tobacco use is one of the biggest risk factors for developing periodontal disease.
- Eat well. A healthy diet provides the nutrients you need to keep your gums and body in the best possible shape. Sweets and other carb-heavy foods encourage bacteria proliferation and disease.
- Eliminate — or at least manage — stress. Stress may lower your ability to fight infection, plus it is a risk factor for teeth grinding, which may damage the teeth and gums.
- Visit us every six months. We can detect early signs of gum problems before they progress to periodontitis.
At Smile Creations, our meticulous professional cleanings will help you keep your mouth healthy and disease free. If we do detect gum disease during an exam, we will help you reverse it.
Depending on the severity of the problem, this may entail nothing more than good oral care at home. If your disease has progressed, we can remove your unhealthy tissue comfortably with our advanced laser treatment. We may also prescribe an oral rinse.