1. Gum disease, clinically known as periodontal disease, is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.
Periodontal disease is a chronic disease which, to some degree, affects at least 75% of American adults. Gum disease is a chronic inflammatory disease that causes destruction of the bone and soft tissue which supports the teeth. Symptoms include reddened, swollen gums which bleed easily, gum recession and pocketing and eventually loosening of the teeth. Up to 30% of adults are genetically predisposed to periodontal disease, despite good personal oral hygiene.
2. Gum Disease is a Bacterial Infection
Periodontal disease is caused by a bacterial infection. Plaque and bacteria form on tooth surfaces, and harden into tartar. Regular brushing and flossing helps remove plaque, but only a professional cleaning can remove the hardened tartar.
Left untreated, the bacteria affects the gums, causing them to get irritated, swollen and tender. This is a condition called gingivitis. As the disease advances, it begins to destroy healthy bone and gum tissue, and results in a chronic infection deep in the gums.
Advanced gum disease is called periodontitis. Signs and symptoms include deep pockets around the gums, bone loss around the tooth roots, tooth abscess and loose teeth.
Untreated bacterial infections can cause serious problems with overall health when they occur elsewhere in the body. An infection in the oral tissues is no different. Periodontal disease is not a “small” infection. In fact, the mass of the oral tissues is about the same as that on your arm, from your elbow to your wrist. If you had an infection which encompassed an area as large as your forearm, you would not ignore it, but seek medical intervention right away.
3. Gum Disease Can Be Treated And Even Reversed
As with any destructive process, the early identification of gingivitis and periodontitis is the key to successful treatment and even reversal. The goal of your dentist is to identify early symptoms and risks for susceptibility to periodontal disease before advanced disease occurs. Earlier stages of periodontal disease can often be treated non-surgically utilizing a targeted and specialized cleaning procedure which removes plaque and tartar from deep gum pockets. This procedure also helps to smooth the surface of the tooth root to remove and inhibit bacterial growth. Often, antibacterial therapy is delivered straight to the source of infection. When non-surgical treatment is successful, careful maintenance, more frequent professional dental cleanings and careful personal oral hygiene help maintain gum health.
4. Gum Disease May Be Linked to Systemic Diseases
Because periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory disease, it makes sense that it can be linked to other chronic inflammatory conditions. Research has shown that oral infections can cause problems in other areas of the body. Chronic inflammatory diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular (heart) disease and Alzheimer’s disease have been linked to advanced periodontal disease in studies.
Prevent gum disease with good personal dental hygiene. Brushing and flossing is not enough.
Seeing your dentist for a check-up every six months is important for disease prevention and early detection. Your regular dental cleaning removes hardened plaque deposits (tartar) around gums which cannot be removed with brushing and flossing. If you have active periodontal disease, your dentist can recommend special treatment designed to halt the destructive process and in some cases, repair the damage.
See Your Dentist Right Away If:
• Your gums are red and swollen
• Your gums bleed easily
• Your gums are receding
• Your gums are painful or tender
• Your teeth are becoming loose