Are You Among the 47% of American Adults With This Disease?
Understanding America’s Gum Disease Epidemic
A whopping 47% of U.S. adults have periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, in some form—that’s roughly 64 million people. When you look at the statistics for people over 65, that percentage goes up to 70%. But that’s not even the most alarming thing.
Gum disease’s most dangerous statistic is that very few people with the condition know they have it. So the odds that you or someone you love has undiagnosed gum disease are quite high. Yet the condition is easy to treat when caught in its earliest stages. One of the biggest reasons that periodontal disease is one of the most prevalent diseases in our society today is because many people don’t know much about it. Let’s change that today.
Periodontal disease, commonly referred to as gum disease, is a chronic infection that causes inflammation and destruction to the tissues and bone that hold your teeth in place. Gingivitis and periodontitis are the two main stages of this disease. The first stage of gum disease, gingivitis, occurs when plaque builds up on the teeth and irritates the gum tissue.
Left untreated, gingivitis progresses to periodontitis, where plaque hardens into tartar, further aggravating the teeth’s supporting gums, ligaments, and bone. Over time, this causes small pockets to form between the gum tissue and the teeth. More bacteria accumulates in those spaces, and the infection continues to spread, damaging the supporting tissues even more and eventually leading to tooth loss.
Aside from poor oral hygiene, a family history of gum disease may increase your risk. Recreational activities like smoking or chewing tobacco may also irritate the gums as well as lower your immune system, making it more likely that if gingivitis is present, it will progress more quickly to periodontitis. Other lifestyle choices that increase our chances of developing gum disease include a poor diet, especially one deficient in vitamin C, and substance abuse.
Poorly managed diabetes and medications that reduce salivary flow can also increase your risk of gum disease. Although rare, a dental restoration that doesn’t fit properly or an implant that isn’t functioning may encourage plaque buildup and contribute to gum disease as well.
Recognizing the Signs
It’s important to know that gum disease isn’t restricted to any particular age, race, gender, or background. Anyone can develop the condition, so when you notice a “little pink in the sink” when brushing or flossing and your gums are tender or puffy, the odds are high that you have some form of gum disease.
Gum disease rarely involves any pain except for slight chewing discomfort. You may also experience bad breath that doesn’t go away, even after brushing. Often, gum disease can fly under the radar, and the easiest way to know if an infection is present is through a comprehensive oral evaluation from a trained dental health professional.
The best way to prevent gingivitis is with good oral hygiene. By brushing twice daily, flossing daily, and regularly visiting the dentist for a cleaning and checkup every six months, you can seriously reduce your risk of developing this condition. Swishing with an antibacterial mouthwash every now and then can also help to keep the bacteria in your mouth in check and gum disease at bay.
You should also refrain from habits like smoking, chewing tobacco, and vaping marijuana. Plus, always remember that a healthy diet supports a healthy body, and a healthy body has the ability to fight off infections, including gum disease.
My Chico Dentist often recommends treating mild to moderate periodontal disease with a professional deep cleaning. This treatment allows your hygienist to remove all stubborn tartar from above and below the gumline to encourage gum tissue reattachment. Severe periodontitis may require periodontal surgery to restore gum health.
Your dentist might recommend other periodontal treatments as well, such as prescription mouthwash, medicated gel, or antibiotics, depending on your specific case and optimal treatment plan.
Take care of your gum health.
Gum disease isn’t inevitable, and when caught early, it’s easy to treat. So if you notice any of the symptoms listed in this article, schedule an evaluation with a dentist right away. Gum disease screenings are a critical part of our dental cleanings and checkups here at My Chico Dentist. If diagnosed with the condition, our doctors and team can advise you on how to restore the health of your teeth and gums. Come visit our office for a checkup today!