Did you know? Gum disease is more common than most people realize. Nearly 50% of Americans over the age of 30 have some form of gum disease. And that percentage increases with age: 70.1% of people age 65 or over have gum disease.
Gum disease affects more than just your mouth — it has been linked to a number of life threatening conditions throughout the body, including a weakened immune system. Especially during a global pandemic, we want to do all we can to keep our immune system in tip-top shape.
Let’s review the most common warning signs of gum disease, how it can impact your health, and what to do if you’re exhibiting symptoms.
What is gum disease?
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is an advanced gum infection. Usually caused by poor oral hygiene, it weakens the tissues that hold the teeth in place. If caught early enough, this disease is usually reversible through regular brushing and flossing. However, advanced cases of gum disease can lead to permanent damage of the jawbone and even tooth loss.
What causes gum disease?
To learn what causes periodontal disease, let’s consider the microbiome of the mouth. Specifically, let’s think about the community of bacteria in there.
Did you know that on average more than 6 billion different bacteria live in your mouth, and there are around 700 different bacteria strains found in the mouth? The average person is only host to about 72 of these different strains, but still — that’s a lot of bacteria!
Thankfully, most of this bacteria is the friendly kind. It lends us a hand by helping break down food, protecting our teeth and gums, and fighting off infections.
But there’s also the bad kind of bacteria that can cause tooth decay and gum disease. When this bacteria feeds on the starches and sugars in our mouth, it releases an enamel-damaging acid that promotes the creation of plaque.
Plaque is a sticky substance that coats your tooth in a film. This film builds up and hardens to form tartar. Tartar can slip below the gum line where you can’t reach it by simply brushing your teeth. When plaque and tartar isn’t removed, it damages the tooth and leads to tooth decay or tooth loss.
Left untreated, this build up of plaque in the mouth can also lead to gum disease.
Know the warning signs!
- Gums that bleed during or after brushing
- Red, swollen, tender gums
- Persistent bad breath
- Receding gums
- Loose teeth
- Shifting teeth
- Changes in the way you bite
These are all signs that you may be suffering from gum disease.
Differences between gingivitis and periodontitis
Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums and is usually a precursor to the more serious periodontitis. But the good news about gingivitis is that it’s usually reversible. When caught early enough, simply brushing twice a day and flossing might be enough to reverse the course of gingivitis.
Common signs of gingivitis include:
- Gums that are visibly inflamed
- Gums that bleed easily when brushing
The more serious stage of gum disease is called periodontitis. When periodontitis develops, the gums pull away from the teeth, creating deep pockets that can become easily infected. As the immune system tries to fight off the infection, it breaks down the tissue and bone that hold the teeth in place. Eventually, this leads to bone and/or tooth loss.
Common signs of periodontitis include:
- Red, swollen, or bleeding gums
- Receding gums
- Visible pockets between gums and teeth
- Pain when biting or chewing
- Shifting teeth
If you exhibit any of these symptoms, it’s important to give us a call immediately.
Health effects of periodontal disease
The bacteria in our mouth doesn’t affect only our mouth. Studies have shown links between poor oral health and other serious diseases.
When we chew or even brush our teeth, research suggests bacteria can leak into the bloodstream and make its way to the brain, heart, and lungs. There, it can cause all sorts of problems, and contribute to conditions such as:
- Heart disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Respiratory issues
- Weakened immune system
Treating and preventing gum disease
Let’s take a look at how to prevent gum disease and a few of the treatment options available to you.
Gum disease might be common, but it’s also fairly preventable. Here are a few easy ways you can prevent gum disease before it starts:
- Get your teeth cleaned and examined every 6 months
- Brush your teeth twice every day, ideally for at least two minutes
- Floss every day
- Eat a balanced diet
- Quit smoking/vaping
Gum disease treatments at Damonte Ranch Dental Care
Perio Protect is a pain-free, non-invasive treatment that’s ideal for treating gum disease in its early stages. Here’s how it works:
- Dr. Waring creates a tray that’s custom fit to your mouth.
- Each day you’ll fill the custom tray with a medicated gel and put it in your mouth for an hour or so.
- The Perio Protect tray is similar to a mouth guard. When filled with the special gel, it creates a tight seal around your teeth. This seal forces medication below the gum line, fighting the bacteria living there.
As an added bonus, Perio Protect also helps whiten teeth and freshen your breath!
Unfortunately, brushing and flossing aren’t always enough to remove plaque from your teeth. In fact, not even your regular teeth cleanings are enough to remove plaque in more serious cases.
That’s where deep cleanings come in.
At these appointments, we’ll use an ultrasonic cleaning device to remove plaque and tartar from your teeth. This device also allows us to clean the bacteria hiding under your gum line and on the root.