You've heard about gum disease and that it is bad for your oral health.
Unfortunately, gum disease is common in American adults. The prevalence of sugary, processed foods and de-emphasis on exercise has contributed to an uptick in dental health issues, namely cavities and gum disease.
What is Gum Disease?
Your dentist may have explained it to you during your last dental examination and cleaning. Gum disease is caused by the buildup of plaque on the surface of the gums. Plaque is made up of germs and bacteria that can irritate your gums and lead to the breakdown of gum tissue and bone tissue in the jaw. The same plaque erodes enamel (the hard, protective outer layer of teeth).
Plaque is the result of the combination of sugars and simple carbohydrates in foods and drinks with the natural bacteria found in the mouth. If proper dental hygiene isn't practiced, the plaque will accumulate on the gums. Over time, if the plaque is not removed, it hardens and turns into tartar. Only your dentist will be able to scrape away the tartar.
The most common type of gum disease is gingivitis. This is the mildest form of gum disease and it can be quickly and easily reversed. Untreated gingivitis is called periodontitis. With periodontitis, the damage done to the gums, and surrounding jaw bone can't be reversed, but they can be stopped. There are two stages of periodontitis: mild and advanced.
The most common symptoms of gingivitis include: red, swollen, tender gums that receded from the teeth, bad breath, gums that bleed easily, pockets along the gum line, and crooked or loose teeth.
How Gum Disease Affects You
Besides bleeding, swollen, sensitive, and sore gums, gum disease can lead to additional oral health issues as well as health concerns to other organs and body systems.
Oral Health Issues
In the most severe cases of advanced periodontitis, teeth may be lost or extracted. Missing teeth can further accelerate the destruction of the bone in the jaw and can cause the remaining teeth to shift, causing crowding or gapping and an uneven or misaligned bite.
Chewing and clear speech may become difficult and your once beautiful smile will now have embarrassing gaps which can decrease your confidence and level of happiness.
In some cases, gingivitis and tooth decay are interrelated. As the gums weaken and get deteriorated with plaque, the teeth in which the jaw bone supports can also become vulnerable to infection and disease.
Plaque and tartar on the gums can penetrate the tooth enamel and begin to infect the tooth pulp and roots. A root canal and other, more intensive dental treatments at your dental office will be necessary to save the tooth and halt the damage to your jaw bone.
Mouth and Body Connection
Besides wreaking havoc on your oral health, periodontal disease can also negatively impact your overall health. Researchers believe that the germs in the plaque enter the bloodstream and infect or injure other organs of the body. The presence of gum disease has been linked to diabetes, heart disease, stroke, premature birth, dementia, rheumatoid arthritis and certain kinds of cancers.
Various emotional and health problems can stem from periodontal disease that can result in more expensive treatment and a potentially lower quality of life.
Gum disease is nothing to shrug off. If you notice your gums bleeding or your gums are irritated, swollen or sensitive, contact your dentist as soon as possible. The damage caused by periodontal disease can be repaired and reversed at the early stages.
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