A common source of concern for many adults is the prevalence bleeding gums and gum disease. In fact, a recent study in the Journal of Dental Research found that among adults aged 30 or older in the United States, almost 50 percent have gum disease.
In the 2009 and 2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researchers tracked the periodontal health of 3,742 adult participants. Of these, at least 47 percent were found to have mild, moderate, or severe periodontal disease. Judging from this study, it may be concluded that about 65 million adults in the United States are afflicted with periodontal disease.
Studies also found that U.S. adults aged 65 and older had a higher likelihood of suffering from moderate or severe periodontal disease, and as many as 70% are afflicted with the condition.
What is Gum Disease?
MouthHealthy.org, the ADA’s consumer info website, defines periodontal disease as “an infection of the tissues that surround and support your teeth.” Periodontal disease may also lead to tooth loss and destroy bone tissue.
The Three Stages of Gum Disease
One of the most dangerous things about gum disease is that it can strike seemingly out of nowhere, and advance rapidly through its three stages.
The earliest stage of periodontal disease is known as gingivitis. Gingivitis is a local infection of the gums that may cause gum tissue to become swollen and sensitive, as well as to bleed upon contact.
During this early stage, it is still possible to fully reverse the condition by means of antibiotics, and a professional dental cleaning, along with a daily preventive hygiene routine that includes regular brushing and flossing.
Gum disease is called periodontitis once it has spread to the various types of tissue surrounding the teeth below the gum line, such as the periodontal ligament that holds teeth in place, and the alveolar bone itself, upon which each tooth sits. At this stage, your dentist might recommend a scaling and root planing treatment to remove plaque and tartar that has accumulated below the gumline. This procedure is often referred to as a deep cleaning procedure.
Once gum disease has reached the stage of advanced periodontitis, it is common to see a degeneration and recession of gum and bone tissue, as well as deterioration and weakening of the periodontal ligament, leading to loosening of the teeth. Teeth may have to be extracted. A gum or bone graft might be indicated, and implants may be required to replace lost teeth.
How Do I Know if I Have Gum Disease?
While painful abscesses may accompany advanced periodontal disease, in its earlier stages the disease is often painless, so you may not even be aware that you have it.
You may have gum disease if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Bleeding gums
- Abscesses or pus in the gums
- Gums that appear red, swollen, and tender
- Gums that have begun to recede from the teeth
- Chronic bad breath or a foul taste
- Teeth becoming loose and separated
- Any noticeable change in the way your teeth meet when you bite down
- Any noticeable change in the way your partial dentures fit
Can Gum Disease Be Prevented?
According to MouthHealthy.org certain risk factors may increase a person’s likelihood of developing periodontal disease, such as genetics, poor oral hygiene, tobacco use, crooked or misaligned teeth that are hard to clean properly, and conditions such as pregnancy and diabetes. Certain medications, such as steroids, some anti-epilepsy and cancer therapy drugs, some types of calcium channel blockers, and even oral contraceptives may also increase an individual’s risk of developing gum disease. Gum disease is more prevalent among males, and it is also linked to lower educational and income levels.
See your dentist regularly for dental checkups to make sure you are not at risk for periodontal disease
5 Tips to Prevent Gum Disease
The ADA recommends the following good oral hygiene habits to ward off periodontal disease:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day, after meals
- Clean between your teeth daily using dental floss, interdental brushes, a dental pick, or a Water-pik
- Get regular dental checkups at least once yearly, or every six months if you are at an increased risk
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet and avoid sugary, sticky foods
- Avoid tobacco use
If you think you might have gum disease, or if your gums are bleeding when you brush your teeth, you’re due for a dental checkup. Schedule a consultation as soon as possible with Dr. Kenneth Cho, a well-respected and trusted dentist serving the communities of La Habra and Buena Park, California with state-of-the-art, comprehensive family dental care.