An estimated 75% of American adults currently have some degree of periodontal (gum) disease, but few realize its linkage to their general health.
Regardless of what you may have heard, it is not “OK” to have occasional bleeding, swelling or tenderness of the gums. One reason people think these symptoms are “normal” is because so many people experience them to one degree or another. The truth is healthy gum tissue is pink, fits snuggly around the teeth, doesn’t bleed or swell, doesn’t give off any foul odor, and doesn’t feel tender to the touch.
If you suffer from any of these symptoms—even if only occasionally—you may have gum disease.
The technical name for this condition is “periodontal” disease, a name meaning “around the tooth.” Periodontal disease is an inflammatory disease that affects the soft and hard structures that support the teeth. In its early stage, called gingivitis, the gums become swollen and red due to inflammation, which is the body’s natural response to the presence of harmful bacteria.
When left unchecked, gum disease creates pockets of space around teeth that become breeding grounds for infection. If untreated, this infection can begin eating away at the underlying bone that anchors the teeth, resulting in loose or shifting teeth, and eventually tooth loss. In fact, gum disease is the number one cause of tooth loss in adults—not decay, as many suppose. But worse yet, people with gum disease may be twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease and stroke. For diabetics, gum disease can cause an increase in blood sugar levels, making their diabetes more difficult to control and increasing their likelihood of suffering dangerous complications. Pregnant women may be up to seven times more likely to deliver premature or underweight babies. People with gum disease may be twice as likely to develop certain forms of cancer, including head, neck and pancreatic cancers. There is even an association between gum disease and Rheumatoid Arthritis and Alzheimer’s.
Here’s the scary truth—people with gum disease are at significantly higher risk for many serious medical conditions. But many don’t even realize that they have it. Maybe their symptoms are still very mild. Or maybe they’ve dismissed their symptoms as “normal,” like so many have.
The good news is there are affordable, comfortable ways to manage gum disease and protect against its harmful effects. The earlier gum disease is diagnosed, the sooner your dental provider can help you stem any damage and protect both your oral health and your overall health and welfare. So don’t delay. Call your dentist today to schedule an evaluation.