Gum Disease in The U.S.
Gum disease, or Periodontal disease, is an infection that occurs in the gums (also called gingiva), deep tissues, ligament, and bones that support your teeth. The word “periodontal” means “around the tooth.” Unless the disease is treated, it can ultimately lead to tooth loss. In fact, the American Academy of Periodontology lists gum disease as the primary cause of tooth loss in adults age 35 and over.
A study titled Prevalence of Periodontitis in Adults in the United States: 2009 and 2010 estimates that 47.2 percent, or 64.7 million American adults, have mild, moderate or severe periodontitis, the more advanced form of periodontal disease. In adults 65 and older, prevalence rates increase to 70.1 percent.
How Gum Disease Starts and The Primary Stages
Gingivitis: The initial stage of gum disease, known as gingivitis, is the mildest form of gum disease. During this stage, only the gums become swollen and red, and may bleed with brushing or flossing. Gingivitis is frequently painless, and as a result, many people suffering from it don’t seek advice or treatment. But with professional treatment and daily attention to oral hygiene, gingivitis can be stopped before it progresses and irreversable damage is done to the deeper tissues.
Periodontitis: Untreated gingivitis may develop into periodontitis, the more extreme form of gum disease. In this stage, the infection progresses to the deeper tissues, irreversably effecting the bone and ligament. As the bone and ligament are destroyed the overlying gum separates from the teeth. The newly created spaces between the gums and the teeth are called pockets. As the disease progresses, these pockets grow larger, allowing for greater damage to deep tissues as well as bone. When the pockets get deeper they also become harder to keep clean and the disease progresses even faster. When enough tissue and bone are affected, the teeth loosen and may fall out or need to be removed.
Signs To Watch For
Because gum disease can exist without pain or discomfort, it’s important to be aware of the possible warning signs that may indicate a problem.
- Gums that appear red or swollen
- Gums that feel tenderGums that bleed easily (during brushing or flossing)
- Gums that recede or pull away from the teeth
- Persistent bad breath
- Loose teeth
- A change in your bite
What Can I Do?
Keeping up with regular visits with your dentist and hygienist is important so they can both diagnose periodontal disease, and prescribe appropriate treatments. For patients with mild gingivitis, improved at home hygiene coupled with more frequent office visits can usually be effective in treating the condition. For patients with more severe periodontitis, there are a variety of advanced periodontal therapies, including:
Scaling – the systematic removal of plaque and tartar buildup and damaged tissues
Root planing – the smoothing of tooth roots to prevent the future buildup of plaque and tartar
Antibiotics – bacteria in the mouth produce plaque, so we may provide oral or topical antibiotics to limit the numbers of oral bacteria. Home care is also vitally important to your oral health and keeping periodonal disease in check. Regular brushing and flossing is essential to help keep plaque and tarter from forming. When flossing be systematic and don’t miss any teeth. Mke sure you get to the bottom of each sulcus (the space between the tooth and gum) where the gum attaches to the tooth. It is also highly beneficial (when possible) to brush after every meal.
Good oral health is also linked to the health of your whole body and influences whole body health. Periodontal disease is a chronic, inflammatory disease that is directly linked with obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other chronic conditions. A healthy diet can be positively influencial on your oral health.Your dentist is here to partner with you on improving your oral health, and always available to answer your questions.