What you need to know about gum disease.
Gum disease is a prevalent oral health condition that affects nearly 47.2% of adults over the age of 30 in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It often progresses quietly, often only revealing itself when damage is already happening to the gum tissue and teeth.
Unfortunately, many people often overlook the early warning signs due to a lack of awareness and education about gum disease symptoms and its detrimental impact on oral health. This is why we believe it’s vital for everyone to understand the fundamentals of periodontal health in order to catch the disease as early as possible to begin treatment.
Let’s get started!
What is gum disease?
Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is an inflammatory condition affecting the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth. It typically progresses in two phases, beginning with gingivitis before advancing to periodontitis.
Gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease, is characterized by red, inflamed gums that bleed easily, especially during brushing or flossing. If left untreated, gingivitis will progress to periodontitis, the most severe form of this disease. During this stage, gums pull away from the teeth, forming deep pockets that become infected and destroy gum tissue or bone. Periodontitis is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.
The primary cause of gum disease is consistently poor oral hygiene, which leads to plaque buildup. However, several other risk factors can contribute to the development and progression of this condition, like tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption, genetics, and systemic medical conditions, such as diabetes.
What are the symptoms of gum disease?
Gum disease doesn’t often start with a bang, but rather gradually sneaks up, making it easy to overlook in its early stages if you’re unaware of the red flags.
- Bleeding gums are often the first sign of this disease.
- Gums that are puffy, red, and tender to the touch.
- Chronic bad breath or an unpleasant taste in your mouth, even with great brushing habits.
- Receding gums makes your teeth appear longer than normal because your gums are pulling back.
- Periodontitis can leave teeth feeling wiggly or loose and change your bite.
Remember, gum disease is a progressive condition, and if left unchecked, it will advance to more serious stages. Even the mild symptoms warrant immediate attention and a trip to see your dentist.
How does gum disease impact overall health?
Gum disease can have an extensive effect on oral health, but that’s not all. The impact of gum disease extends beyond your oral health by potentially affecting systemic health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory infections.
Research suggests that chronic inflammation associated with gum disease may increase the risk of heart disease, including the chances of heart attack and stroke. Diabetes also shares a cyclical relationship with this disease by making diabetics more susceptible to gum disease and even causing blood glucose management more difficult. Last but not least, high amounts of bacteria and infection in the mouth can be inhaled, leading to an increased risk of lung infection or the worsening of existing respiratory disease.
What are the most effective gum care methods?
Maintaining excellent oral hygiene is a combination of consistent and effective habits at home, complemented by regular dental check-ups and cleanings.
Brushing your teeth. Brushing at least twice daily is the cornerstone of good oral hygiene. It helps remove plaque, a sticky film containing bacteria that can lead to this disease. Using a soft-bristle toothbrush, aim for each brushing session to last for two minutes, ensuring you clean each tooth from every angle.
Flossing daily. Don’t forget to floss carefully at least once a day to remove food particles and bacterial plaque from areas where your toothbrush can’t reach, particularly under the gumline and between your teeth.
Biannual dental evaluations. Evaluations with a dentist and a professional cleaning by a dental hygienist are essential to detect early signs of gum disease and remove hardened plaque called tartar.
Eating a well-balanced diet. A diet rich in vitamins and minerals supports healthy gums and strong teeth. We also encourage smokers to strongly consider stopping their habit to protect their oral and overall health.
Following and prioritizing all of these tips are also essential for preventing future gum disease.
What are the treatment options for gum disease?
When it comes to treatment of this disease, there’s a range of options available, depending on the severity. In the early stages, non-surgical treatments are most commonly used. For instance, scaling and root planing is a deep cleaning process where plaque and tartar from above and below the gum line to prevent bacteria from gathering again.
Antibiotics can also be used, either topically applied to gums or taken orally, to help control bacterial infection. However, in more advanced cases, surgical interventions may be necessary, such as pocket reduction surgery or bone and tissue grafts.
Your dental care team plays an essential role in achieving and maintaining healthy gums.
At Metro East Dental Care, our skilled team is committed to helping you achieve and maintain healthy gums. Regular checkups allow Dr. May to spot the earliest warning signs of gingivitis, and if gum disease has already set in, he offers a range of effective treatment options tailored to your specific needs.
Remember, early detection and prompt treatment of this disease can prevent it from escalating into a severe condition. Take control of your oral health by scheduling an appointment today.