Gum disease is an all-too-common problem for adults in the U.S. In fact, recent studies suggest that over 47% of Americans over the age of 30 have gum disease, and over 70% of people age 65 and over suffer from this condition. What’s even more alarming is that gum disease is, for the most part, totally preventable. Even if you’re genetically predisposed to the condition, chances are that you can avoid it altogether by practicing good oral hygiene habits and visiting your dentist on a regular basis.
Forms of Gum Disease
As is the case with many other maladies, there are different types of gum disease.
- Gingivitis: This relatively mild form of the condition is usually indicated by swollen, sore and bleeding gums. If caught at this early stage, gum disease can usually be reversed by regular brushing, flossing and professional cleaning by a dental hygienist. Gingivitis does not typically result in loss of teeth or bone tissue that holds the teeth in place.
- Periodontitis: If you suffer from gingivitis and don’t take any steps to resolve the condition, you’ll probably develop periodontitis – a much more serious form of the disease. Periodontitis results in gum tissue actually separating from teeth and developing deep pockets. Those pockets often become infected, which can lead to bone loss and deterioration of gum tissue. Patients suffering from periodontitis often lose their teeth altogether if the condition is not treated.
Although anyone can develop gum disease, there are some medical conditions and personal habits that can increase your odds of developing the condition. Here are a few of them given to us by Dan Nguyen from Daniela Dental in San Antonio:
- Genetics: If gum disease runs in your family, you may be more likely to develop it yourself. But it’s important to remember that regular trips to the dentist and practicing good oral hygiene habits can overcome genetic predisposition. Just because it runs in your family doesn’t mean you’ll definitely develop the disease.
- Diabetes and other illnesses: If you suffer from diabetes, you may be at a greater risk of developing gum disease. Other illnesses, such as AIDS or other conditions that compromise your immune system, also put you at greater risk.
- Smoking: Most of us are aware of the dangers of smoking, but you may not be aware that it also increases your risk of developing gingivitis.
- Medicines: One common side effect of both prescription and over-the-counter medications is a dry mouth. Lack of saliva increases the likelihood of developing gum disease.
- Hormones: Changes in hormone levels may also make you more susceptible to gum disease.
Fortunately, there are effective ways to combat gum disease, particularly if it’s caught in the early stages of gingivitis. Often, the patient can reverse the situation by simply brushing and flossing twice a day and seeing a dentist twice a year (or more often) for professional cleanings and checkups.
If the gingivitis has advanced to a later stage, or if you’ve developed periodontitis, your dentist may recommend that other procedures be done. These may include deep cleaning of tooth root material below the gum line. A laser may be used to remove more tartar and plaque. Your dental professional may suggest changing your lifestyle or habits as well, such as quitting smoking. Extreme cases may require oral surgery, such as flap surgery or bone and tissue grafts.
Whatever procedure is necessary, it’s important to take effective measures needed to reverse this condition. Remember that gum disease has been linked to other more serious conditions, such as heart disease. Talk to your dentist for more information. You may end up not only saving your teeth and gums, but your overall health as well.
6415 Babcock Rd. Ste 105
San Antonio, Texas 78249