Research confirms that most adults show signs of gum irritation (gingivitis), which often procedes more serious infections, called periodontal diseases.
Healthy gums might not be on the top of every patient's dental priority list, but the gums are critically important to oral and overall health. Left untreated, minor gum inflammation can quickly descend into severe periodontal disease, resulting in tooth decay and in some cases life-threatening conditions.
Gingivitis can occur in children as young as three-years-old, but adults are at a far higher risk for developing early and late symptoms. Shockingly, nearly one-quarter of 65 to 74-year-olds have severe periodontal disease (measured as 6 millimeters of periodontal attachment loss). Men of all ages are more likely than women to have more serious symptoms.
Fortunately, there are simple ways to identify and address gum disease before symptoms worsen. And with a little preventative care, most adults can avoid gingivitis altogether, and save themselves the pain of invasive surgical fixes.
Why Gums Matter
Just as with the teeth, tongue, and cheeks, gums are a part of the mouth, which dentists call the gateway to the body. If the entire mouth is kept in good condition (not just the teeth), the whole body benefits. Conversely, infections in the gum can spread elsewhere. As an example, periodontitis can sometimes lead to heart disease, as the infections enter the bloodstream through the gums, and then attach to fatty plaques on the coronary arteries.
While your teeth are fastened into your jaw bone, the gums — which are attached to the teeth with special ligaments — also aide in keeping the teeth anchored and help absorb forces of impact.
The gums are especially vulnerable to infection as compared to other parts of the mouth as they are relatively exposed, lacking the protective coatings of tissue and mucus enjoyed by the tongue, throat, and cheeks.
The following symptoms could be a sign of ginigivigtis or periodontal disease:
Swollen, red, tender gums
Bleeding while flossing, brushing or chewing.
Recessed gums, making the teeth appear longer
Puss between the gums and teeth
Persistent bad breath
Loose or separating teeth
It's important to remember, gum disease is often painless and symptomless. The only fail-proof way to ensure healthy gums is to visit your dentist for routine checkups at least twice annually.
Whose More At Risk
The gums weaken with age, putting elderly populations at a much higher risk for gingivitis or periodontal disease.
The American Dental Association reports that those taking steroidal hormones may be at a higher risk of developing gum disease. Certain prescription drugs Tlike antiepileptic drug phenytoin (Dilantin); cyclosporin, used for immunosuppressive therapy in transplant patients; and various calcium channel blockers used in heart disease, may also trigger gingival growth and inflammation.
Ninety-five percent of diabetics some form of gum disease. Patients with other illnesses including cancer — especially those undergoing radioactive treatment — cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and pulmonary disease are also at higher risk.
Gum disease is also more prevalent amongst women who have endured adverse pregnancy outcomes and in tobacco users.
Gum Disease Treatment
Generally, early gingivitis can be treated with a little extra elbow grease on normal oral hygiene habits — brushing and flossing.
In more severe cases, non-surgical procedures such as the use of antibiotics, deep cleanings, and laser treatment may be needed.
Patients with a severe periodontal disease may require surgical treatment to regenerate lost bone or tissue, remove air pockets on the gum line, remove excess gum tissue, or graft soft tissue.
The success of any treatment depends on routine dental checkups and dedication to a complete oral hygiene routine.
Take Control of your Oral Health Today
If you're concerned about you may have or be at risk of gum disease, Dr. Stacie Calian is here to help. Click here to schedule a free, no-pressure, consultation with her online to ease your mind.