Contrary to common belief, it is NOT “okay” to have occasional bleeding, swelling or tenderness of the gums.
One reason people have been duped into thinking these symptoms are “normal” is because so many people experience them to some degree or another. The truth is healthy gum tissue is pink, fits snugly 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. In fact, at least one in four adults over the age of 20 have some degree of potentially destructive gum disease, and that percentage gets consistently higher with age.
The medical name for this condition is “periodontal” disease, a name meaning “around the tooth.” Bacteria naturally gather on and around our teeth in the form of a soft, sticky substance called plaque. At the same time, our saliva continually introduces certain minerals into our mouths which combine with the gooey plaque to form hard deposits—not unlike the tough-to-clean mineral deposits than can build up in the water system in your house. These cement-like deposits are called tartar (or calculus). As plaque and tartar build up, they encourage the growth of even more bacteria, creating a dangerous cycle of disease.
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 which 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.
Worse yet, persons 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. Furthermore, research shows that persons with gum disease may be twice as likely to develop certain forms of cancer, including head, neck and pancreatic cancers.
Here’s the scary truth—persons 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.