What You Should Know About Gum Disease
Nearly half of all Americans over the age of 30 have some form of gum disease (also called “periodontal disease”) ranging from mild (30%) to severe, according to the American Academy of Periodontology. This chronic inflammatory condition affects the gum tissue and bone supporting the teeth. Left untreated it eventually leads to tooth loss.
In the earlier stages of periodontal disease, the tissues that surround and support the teeth become inflamed and the healthy pink tissue turns red. The gums may bleed easily when brushing. This early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. At this stage, the disease is still reversible and can usually be eliminated by a professional cleaning at your dental office, followed by daily brushing and flossing. Left untreated, the gums begin to pull away from the teeth. Infection burrows deeper into the gum line and begins to affect the bone that holds the teeth in place. Teeth may begin to feel loose and even begin to move.
The gums in this photo below are of a new patient who presented with an advanced stage of periodontal (gum) disease. Note how the gums are so inflamed that they’ve pulled away from the teeth. You can see the buildup of tartar and plaque along the gumline.
As part of a deep gum therapy treatment called “Scaling and Root Planing,” the buildup of tartar and calculus was removed from the teeth and under the gumline. Note how the gums returned to their healthy pink color and hug the teeth once again.
Left untreated, periodontal disease is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. Also referred to as periodontal disease, this condition is caused by plaque, the sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on teeth as you can see in our patient’s before photo. Due to the fact that it’s not painful, it’s often left untreated. However, there are warning signs that tell you it’s time to come see us, as you may need gum therapy.
Here are Some Warning Signs that can Signal a Problem:
- red, swollen, tender gums
- gum tissue that’s pulled away from the teeth
- gums that bleed easily
- bad breath that doesn’t go away or a chronic bad taste in your mouth
- loose permanent teeth
- change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- a change in the fit of partial dentures
Risk Factors for Developing Gum Disease:
- poor oral hygiene
- crooked teeth that are hard to keep clean
- genetic predisposition
- smoking or chewing tobacco
- medications that dry out your mouth
In the United States, chronic inflammation of the gums (called “periodontitis”) affects nearly half of adults over the age of 30. This most common form of gum disease can also be seen in children. Aggressive periodontitis is a highly destructive form of periodontal disease that occurs in patients who are otherwise healthy. Common features include rapid loss of tissue and bone and may occur in some areas of the mouth, or in the entire mouth.
Gum Disease and Aging
The effects of gum disease don’t stop at the mouth. We’ve heard for years about the connection between inflamed gums and heart health, but there’s apparently a connection between gum health and what Micheal Rozen, M.D. calls your “Real Age.” In his book, Real Age: Are You As Young As You Can Be? Dr. Rozen, Chief Wellness Officer at The Cleveland Clinic, discusses how men under the age of 50 with advanced periodontal disease are three times more likely to die from heart disease than those with healthy teeth and gums. He notes that dental disease and tooth loss don’t just make you look older, they advance what he calls your “Real Age,” a system he developed to ascertain an individual’s biological age vs their actual age.
It’s possible to have gum disease and no warning signs. It’s one reason why we want patients to maintain regular dental checkups. We keep a close eye on gum health and regularly measure pocket depths. Treatment methods depend upon the type of disease and how far the condition has progressed. Good dental care at home is essential to help keep periodontal disease from becoming more serious or recurring.