Let’s take a moment to talk about one of the most unmentioned and under appreciated parts of the human body: our gums. You hear how important it is to brush, and how having healthy teeth is an important goal for all of us. But we neglect the gums, whose sole job is to hold our teeth firmly in place, protect them from the elements, and keep our entire mouth nourished and healthy. In short, we need healthy gums in order to have healthy teeth, AND a healthy body, too.
We know that gums are often overlooked because a 2012 CDC report confirmed that more than 50% of adults living in the United States have some form of gum disease. That rate goes up to a larger 70% of adults over the age of 65.
What Is Gum (Periodontal) Disease?
Gum disease is caused by two things: the presence of bacteria in the mouth and places for that bacteria to congregate and stay. Buildup of bacteria causes inflammation and irritation, triggering an immune response by the body. The mildest form of gum (periodontal) disease is called gingivitis. Left untreated, the condition can create periodontal “pockets” or areas where the bacteria can collect deeper under the gum line. Gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, where the bacteria and inflammation can actually deteriorate the condition of the gums and the teeth.
What are common symptoms of gum disease?
In many cases, people in the early stages of gum disease may not experience any pain or may have very mild symptoms that are easily ignored. Some of the more severe symptoms include:
- Bad breath that won’t go away
- Red or swollen gums
- Tender or bleeding gums
- Painful chewing
- Loose teeth
- Sensitive teeth
- Receding gums or longer appearing teeth
Gum disease affects more than just your mouth
Untreated gum disease can result in the loss of teeth, but it can lead to more severe issues. Gum disease can have major impacts on other body systems and has been tied to other serious health issues.
Lungs & Respiratory System
A study in 2011 found a correlation between the presence of periodontal disease and the incidence of respiratory illnesses including pneumonia, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder) and acute bronchitis. If the body is busy fighting off infection in another area of the body, such as the mouth, its ability to fight respiratory infections may be limited or compromised.
Heart Disease & Stroke
Research has identified a variety of common risk factors associated with gum disease as well as heart disease and risk of stroke, including age, genetics, smoking habits, presence of diabetes, and more.
Fertility & Pregnancy
Results of a recent study show that women who have active gum disease can take two to three months longer to conceive than women who do not have gum disease. Fertility specialists often require women who are trying to conceive to show that they either do not have, or are actively in treatment to correct gum disease.
It is very common in women who are pregnant to develop gum disease at some point. In many cases with monitoring by Dr. Amin, pregnancy-related gum disease will go away on its own. However, pregnant women who have active gum disease are more likely to deliver either prematurely or have babies with unexpectedly low birth weight.
How To Prevent It
Though nearly half of all adults have some form of gum disease, it is treatable and manageable. Dr. Amin can detect the presence of gum disease or the signs it may be developing before you notice symptoms, so the best defense is staying up to date with your routine check ups and cleanings.
- Brush your teeth twice daily to remove this bacteria from the surfaces of your teeth, and to help avoid cavities.
- Floss daily in order to remove the bacteria from between your teeth and around the gum line.
- Regular checkups and professional cleanings by our wonderful hygienists will help to remove any plaque, build-up (calculus) and bacteria that you aren’t able to reach during your regular oral hygiene routine at home