Have your gums ever felt tender or bled after flossing? This is an early warning sign of gingivitis, which is the beginning stage of gum disease. Unfortunately, gum disease (also known as periodontal disease) is common. The American Academy of Periodontology reports, “Half of Americans aged 30 or older have periodontitis, the more advanced form of periodontal disease. This equals approximately 64.7 million Americans.” However, just because it affects so many people doesn’t mean it should be taken lightly. As you will see, periodontal disease is serious and has been linked to other dangerous medical conditions.
Periodontal disease begins in the gums. When plague finds its way in between the gums and the teeth, it can cause the gums to become inflamed. This stage is called gingivitis. Thankfully, when caught at this stage, the damage is reversible. However, if gingivitis is not treated, then it can develop into periodontitis, which is the more serious stage of gum disease. At this stage, the gums begin to pull away and no longer support the teeth. As a result, the bone and ligaments holding the tooth in place will break down, and the tooth may have to be removed.
The Various Risks for Gum Disease
One way to battle gum disease is to be proactive. By understanding the risk factors, you will know which ones put you more at risk, and you can take preventative measures.
- Age – The older you are, the more at risk you are for developing gum disease. Studies suggest, “70% of Americans 65 and older have periodontitis.”
- Genetics – Sadly, even people who practice good oral hygiene may be more at risk simply because of genetics. As Colgate explains, “Your family doesn’t just pass down good looks; they can also play a factor in gum disease, making some people more prone to gum disease than others.”
- Poor Nutrition – There is a connection between poor nutrition and gum disease. For example, if someone is not eating healthy enough foods to fight off infections, then they will be more at risk for developing an infection in their gums. Similarly, obesity has been shown to increase one’s risk of developing periodontal disease.
- Stress – Stress has been linked to several health conditions, including periodontal disease. This is because stress makes it harder for your body to fight off infections, such as infections in your gums.
- Medications – According to the American Academy of Periodontology, “Some drugs, such as oral contraceptives, anti-depressants, and certain heart medicines, can affect your oral health.” Therefore, it is critical, to be honest about the medications you are taking when speaking to your Houston dentist.
- Pregnancy – There is a condition known as “pregnancy gingivitis.” The hormonal changes during pregnancy can result in inflammation of the gums, which if left untreated can turn into gum disease.
- Smoking – One of the most significant risk factors of gum disease is smoking. A large number of individuals who develop gum disease use tobacco or smoke – “up to 90% of people with severe periodontitis smoke” according to WebMD. Not only does smoking put you at great risk for gum disease, but it also makes healing from gum disease significantly harder.
Whereas some of the risk factors for periodontal disease can’t be changed (i.e., genetics), you should do everything in your power to change the ones you can (i.e., smoking and eating habits). The changes you make today will lead to healthier gums and teeth tomorrow.
Gum Disease Has Been Linked to Other Serious Medical Conditions
Multiple studies have found connections between gum disease and other serious conditions. As Sally Cram, DDS, PC, consumer advisor for the American Dental Association, explains for WebMD, “They’re finding the role of inflammation in the body is very critical to a lot of these different diseases. And that’s essentially what gum disease is: infection and inflammation in the oral cavity.” This may explain why there appears to be a connection between gum disease and diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Additionally, there are ongoing studies that suggest gum disease is linked to other medical conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and respiratory disease. Considering the number of medical conditions that appear to be linked to gum disease, it is wise to take preventative measures.
Medical News Today suggests, “Good dental hygiene may reduce our risk of developing a range of serious health problems […] Managing it at an early stage might reduce the risks of a multitude of ills.”
Symptoms of Gum Disease
Unfortunately, gum disease can sneak up on you since it is not usually too painful in the beginning. However, be on the lookout for any of the following symptoms:
- Swollen or red gums
- Gums that are tender or bleed when brushing and flossing
- Bad breath
- Areas of gum that seem to pull away from the teeth
- Pain when chewing
- Tooth sensitivity
- Loose teeth
If you notice any of these symptoms, you should make an appointment with your Houston dentist as soon as possible. Again, if caught in the early stages, gum disease is reversible! The later you wait to treat it, the worse it will be and the less likely it will be that you can treat it without surgery.
How to Lower Your Chances of Developing Gum Disease
Take a proactive approach to gum disease by taking the steps today to protect your gum and teeth. This is the best way to lower your chances of developing gum disease.
- If you smoke, stop smoking!
- Eat healthily. Taking time for meal planning, limiting sugary beverages and snacks, and setting aside time for health and wellness is extremely important for protecting your gums and teeth.
- Brush your teeth twice a day.
- Floss daily.
- Use mouthwash. Swishing with mouthwash can help reduce plaque by removing debris you missed when brushing or flossing.
- Have regular checkups.
Schedule an Appointment with Greenspoint Dental in Houston Today!
Whether you are experiencing symptoms or simply want to take preventative steps, our Houston dental team at Greenspoint Dental is ready to help!