Gum disease is one of the most common oral health conditions in the United States and the leading cause of tooth loss. Gum disease, or periodontal disease, refers to inflammation or infection within the gums, which is the network of soft tissues that support your teeth. While gum disease is preventable and treatable in early stages, it can also produce some very serious consequences if ignored for too long, including irreversible damage to your teeth and gums as well as threats to your whole-body health.
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is an infection of the gums that typically begins with poor oral hygiene. When bacteria and plaque are allowed to accumulate along the gum line, it can create an infection that causes the gums to pull away from the tooth roots. At this point, deep pockets of gum tissue develop, which harbors additional bacteria and infection. If left untreated, gum disease can advance enough to destroy the underlying bone and cause tooth loss.
Gum disease occurs in stages. The earliest stage is gingivitis, which is very common. According to the CDC, nearly half of all American adults suffer from gingivitis, which is also the most treatable stage of gum disease. Periodontitis is the most advanced stage and may require more invasive treatment and possible permanent damage.
Gum Disease Threatens Your Smile
Even in its earliest stages, gum disease can show physical symptoms that compromise the appearance of your smile. Minor symptoms of gingivitis include puffy, red or bleeding gums as well as bad breath. As the disease progresses, however, patients may encounter receding gums, loose teeth, pus between their teeth and even missing teeth.
Gum Disease Puts Your Overall Health at Risk?
The detriments of gum disease don’t stop in your mouth. In fact, there are some serious ramifications and risks towards your overall health. The bacteria of gum disease can enter the bloodstream and affect your heart, blood sugar and more. Gum disease continues to be linked to more and more overall health issues. The current list is quite extensive and includes the following:
- Heart disease
- Premature birth
- Low-birth weight babies
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
- Kidney disease
How Is Gum Disease Preventable?
Diligent and proper oral hygiene is your first and most important line of defense against gum disease. In fact, stepping up your brushing and flossing efforts can often reverse minor cases of gingivitis. Proper oral hygiene must include three components: brushing 2-3 times per day for at least 2 minutes, flossing once per day and seeing your dentist every six months for a cleaning and exam. It is rare to suffer from advanced gum disease symptoms if you are seeing your dentist twice a year and practicing strong dental hygiene at home.
If you are especially prone to gum disease or have a family history of periodontal concerns, you may be asked to schedule dental visits more frequently. Patients that use tobacco products as well as women who are pregnant are at an increased risk for gum disease.
Gum Disease Treatment From a Periodontist
Not all dentists have the specialized training in treating gum disease that a periodontist has. At Group Health Dental, we understand how prevalent and how serious gum disease is among the adult population in the United States. That’s why we’ve staffed our dental team with a skilled periodontist. Our New York office offers a full range of therapies to treat gum disease at all stages.
Many patients can regain optimal periodontal health with a deep cleaning, or scaling and root planing. This simple procedure is used to thoroughly disinfect the deep pockets of gum tissue and scale or smooth the surface of the tooth roots in order to encourage the gums to reattach. Advanced forms of gum disease may need to be treated with lasers or other more aggressive therapies.
Are your gums bleeding when you brush? Do your gums look swollen or more red than usual? Make an appointment to see one of our talented dentists at Group Health Dental. We promise a positive experience from beginning to end. Keep in mind that you are protecting your smile and your overall health when you tend to your gums!