There may be a killer lurking in plain view, and much closer than you might think. Quite literally, right under our noses. Gum disease, an infection of the soft tissues that surround the teeth, is usually painless. And while many people are aware that they need to eat right, exercise and care for their bodies, they may not recognize the often-subtle symptoms caused by gum disease. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) though, 64.7 million Americans have mild to moderate or even severe gum disease (In patients aged 65 and older, the numbers jump to as much as 70% of the population). That is why it’s so important to be aware of gum disease and how it can sneak up on you.
Gum Disease Can Be Very Sneaky
One of the biggest reasons that early gum disease (known as gingivitis) gains a foothold is that it tends to develop slowly with little to no pain. Symptoms are so mild and many people are simply not aware that plaque buildup (often the very first sign of gum disease) is not normal. Neither are bleeding gums when brushing, persistent bad breath (or a bad taste in the mouth), gums pulling away from teeth (making them appear longer) and soreness of the gums – all signs of gum disease. As gum disease progresses, the symptoms become more pronounced, often leading to tooth loss and other symptoms of full-blown periodontal disease.
Additionally, many people with active gum disease, even if they might recognize it, do not consider it a threat to their health. Gum disease is, however, a very real issue and has been linked to high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, uncontrolled diabetes and even dementia. In short, gum disease provides a gateway for other illnesses.
But, you may be asking yourself, how can gum disease affect so many other conditions? It is really quite simple. The bacteria that live in your mouth feed on food particles and sugars on your teeth. The warm, moist environment provided by your mouth allows them to multiply easily. These bacteria are the same ones that release acid and cause tooth decay. The longer food stays on your teeth; the more damage they can do to your teeth and gums.
And, even though they start in the mouth, they do not necessarily stay there. Bacteria can easily migrate into other body systems, causing serious damage to organs and tissues, such as the heart and blood vessels. The best way to avoid these issues is to stop gum disease in its tracks by eating a healthy diet low in sugary foods, brushing and flossing regularly after meals and snacks, and commit to regular dental checkups and cleanings.
To find out more about periodontitis or any other dental health topic, please call (724) 452-4300 or schedule an appointment online today. Come and experience exceptional dentistry with a caring professional. Dr. Mark A. Marion has been selected as one of America’s Best Dentists by the International Association of Dentists, and has been awarded numerous accolades by his patients and peers.