According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half of Americans aged 30 or older have periodontitis, or gum disease. Periodontitis can lead to tooth loss, affect overall health and be aggravated by poor oral health habits, smoking, medication and an unhealthy diet.1 In honor of Gum Disease Awareness Month, take a moment to learn how periodontal (gum) disease can affect your health and how to prevent it.
To get the full picture, it’s good to know why periodontal disease occurs. When plaque and tartar stay on teeth for an extended period, the bacteria can inflame gums, resulting in gingivitis. When gingivitis isn’t treated, it can advance to periodontitis (gum disease), meaning “inflammation around the tooth.” Pockets or spaces form as gums pull away from teeth and then become infected. This can cause damage to structures that support teeth and can eventually lead to tooth loss.
Gum disease doesn’t only affect the mouth. It can also affect the entire body. Several studies indicate that gum disease is linked to many diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and, more recently, Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers have found that having gum disease can increase your risk of developing heart disease or diabetes and vice versa.
Depending on the severity of gum disease, treatments can range from deep cleanings that remove plaque and tartar to more involved dental surgeries.2 Schedule an appointment with your dentist if you experience any of these gum disease symptoms:
- Red, swollen, tender or bleeding gums
- Persistent bad breath
- Pain while chewing
- Tooth sensitivity
- Loose teeth
Maintaining good oral health habits can prevent and, in some cases, reverse gum disease. Always make sure to brush twice and floss once a day as well as visit the dentist regularly. In addition, eating a healthy diet and avoiding tobacco can further reduce your risk of gum disease. For more tips on how to prevent gum disease, watch our video or download our flyer.