Periodontal Disease Has Become a Silent Epidemic
Periodontal disease affects 47% of Americans.
That’s nearly half of the population. Why is gum disease so incredibly common? Perhaps it’s because the condition rarely causes pain until irreversible damage is done. People tend to associate disease with pain, and when they’re not in pain, they are less likely to seek out medical care.
Let’s dive into what periodontal disease is and how it silently wreaks havoc on people’s mouths and bodies.
Gingiva means “gum” and -itis means “inflammation,” so it makes sense that gingivitis would simply mean “gum inflammation.”
Poor oral hygiene and other factors cause plaque to build up on the teeth and around the gumline. As plaque stays in and around the gumline, it creates toxins that irritate the tissue, causing redness and inflammation. People who have gingivitis may notice that their gums bleed when they brush or floss. The gums may also change color. Healthy gums are firm and light pink, and infected gums are softer and a darker color. However, what’s tricky is that some things can mask these initial signs, such as smoking. People who smoke are less likely to experience bleeding in their infected gums.
Gingivitis is the beginning stage of gum disease, and at this stage, it’s reversible with prompt treatment and vigilant home care.
But what happens without treatment?
If gingivitis is not treated, a much more serious and irreversible stage of gum disease, called periodontitis, begins. Perio means “tissues supporting/surrounding the teeth,” and again -itis means “inflammation.” Generally speaking, when the infection has reached the surrounding bone and the bone begins to lose its mass, periodontitis has formed.
How does this work? Let’s think about gingivitis again. As the area between the gum and teeth gets filled with plaque and the gumline begins to get infected, it pulls away from the teeth. This forms a pocket, which allows more plaque and bacteria to fill the pocket, making it harder to remove with normal brushing and flossing. As time goes on, the gum tissue will pull away even further from the tooth, making the pocket even bigger and continuing the vicious cycle.
Gum Disease and Tooth Loss
Eventually, the bone will shrink back as well to avoid the active infection, and this results in bone loss. As the bones supporting teeth lose more and more of their mass, they’ll eventually be unable to hold the tooth in place. Teeth may start to get loose, and eventually they will fall out. Tooth loss, in turn, can cause a whole host of dental issues ranging from malocclusion(bad bite) to increased bone loss and more tooth loss.
How Periodontal Disease Affects the Body
The damage this disease causes doesn’t end in the mouth. Researchers have found that people who have gum disease are more likely to have the following conditions:
- Heart disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Certain types of cancer
- Chronic kidney disease
There are several theories for why this happens. One is that gum disease causes inflammation that spreads to the bloodstream, causing widespread inflammation that can affect other systems in the body.
Simple Ways to Prevent Periodontitis.
There are active steps you can take today to decrease your risk of developing periodontitis. One of them is to know your risk factors. Things that can increase your risk of developing periodontitis include diabetes, smoking, age, medications, stress, and genetics. Some of these things, like your age, you cannot change , but there are others, like smoking, that you can.
Preventing periodontitis starts at home. Brush for two minutes twice a day and floss at least once a day. Ask your dentist to show you the proper flossing technique, and be sure to brush around your gumline. Do not skip cleaning between your teeth and around your gums, even if your gums appear healthy.
Keep on top of your regular dental hygiene appointments and checkups. If you notice signs of gingivitis, such as dark red gums, bleeding, or inflammation, be sure to tell Dr. Enjati.
Quality Dental Care in Friendship Heights
Periodontal dental treatment is necessary to curb gingivitis, restore your tooth structure, and stop further disease progression after periodontitis. If you are looking for a dentist in Friendship Heights or have more questions about gum disease, fill out our online appointment form or give us a call.