Take a guess: what is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults? If you guessed tooth decay, that’s understandable. But the correct answer is gum disease. That’s right: more teeth are lost to periodontal issues than to cavities. Without healthy gum tissue to support them, teeth have no way to stay anchored in the mouth.
And gum disease is shockingly widespread. According to the Centers for Disease Control, almost half of Americans over the age of 30 have some form of periodontal disease. For Americans over the age of 65, the prevalence rate is a whopping seventy percent. But as common as it is, gum disease is not inevitable. It is preventable. If you are aware of your risk and practice excellent oral hygiene, you don’t have to be part of this silent epidemic.
Regular dental visits are one way you can help keep gum disease at bay. If you live in or around Punta Gorda, FL, call Smiles of Punta Gorda at 941-585-0424 to book your next checkup.
Gum Disease Is Progressive
There are two forms of gum disease, though it is really a progression. The earliest and less severe stage is called gingivitis. If left untreated, gingivitis will worsen and progress to the more serious stage, which is called periodontitis. You may have gingivitis and not even be aware of it, as it often does not exhibit symptoms at first. That’s one reason why regular checkups are so important. The earlier gum disease is diagnosed, the easier it is to reverse.
Unchecked periodontitis may have consequences beyond your mouth. Research has linked it to multiple serious systemic health problems. Several studies have shown that gum disease increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. The exact mechanism has not been proven, but inflammation appears to be the key. Diabetics have long been known to be vulnerable to periodontal disease, but the connection may go both ways. If you have diabetes, gum disease may make your blood sugar more difficult to control. This puts you at a higher risk for diabetic complications. Periodontal problems may also make you more likely to develop osteoporosis, respiratory disease, and even certain cancers.
Manage Your Gum Disease Risk
Not all gum disease risk factors are within your control, but it still helps to be aware of them. And many of them are within your ability to change.
- The older you are, the more likely you are to develop gum disease.
- Genetics play a role. If your parents or other relatives have had gum disease, you have a higher risk.
- Smokers and users of smokeless tobacco products have much higher rates of gum disease than the general population. Their periodontitis also tends to be more difficult to treat.
- Certain drugs may increase your risk. Always educate yourself about your medications’ side effects.
- Obesity and nutrient-poor diets may make you more likely to develop periodontal problems.
- Stress may be a factor. It makes you more vulnerable to infection and can lead to teeth grinding and clenching, which may damage the gums.
- Poor oral hygiene will make your mouth ripe for bacteria and gum disease to take hold. Be sure to brush every morning and night and floss daily, using proper technique.
Know Your Symptoms
Gum disease can be sneaky. Early-stage gingivitis often does its damage without you even realizing it. However, as your periodontal disease worsens, signs will appear. If you notice these symptoms, it’s important to call Smiles of Punta Gorda for an examination.
- Gums that are swollen, red, tender, or that bleed easily.
- Bad breath (halitosis) that won’t go away.
- Tooth pain or sensitivity.
- Gums that appear to be pulling away from the teeth. You may notice pockets forming between the teeth and gums.
- Loose teeth.
- Teeth that look longer than they used to (a sign of recession).
- A sudden change in your bite, or how your teeth fit together.
Gum Disease Is Treatable
How your periodontal disease is treated will depend on its severity. If we manage to catch it in early-stage gingivitis, you’re in luck. This is generally reversible through regular professional cleanings and excellent oral hygiene practices at home.
If your gum disease is more severe, we may recommend a procedure called scaling and root planing. This is a deep-cleaning technique, performed under general anesthesia, that thoroughly removes plaque and tartar from under the gumline. We will then clean the tooth roots.