February 13, 2019
February is Gum Disease Awareness Month in Boston. This means it’s a great time to know more about this serious condition that affects 85% of Americans. Left untreated, gum disease can lead to problems such as inflamed gums, tooth loss, and bone degradation. Gum disease is also linked to serious illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and cancer. Fortunately, gum disease almost always responds to prompt professional treatment.
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is a condition that affects the bone and tissue network that supports your teeth. It’s caused by harmful microorganisms that multiply until they infect the teeth and gums. Risk factors for developing the condition include lack of oral hygiene, lifestyle choices, hereditary traits, medication side effects, or some combination of these factors.
What are the Warning Signs of Gum Disease?
Early symptoms of gum disease may include tender, swollen gums that bleed easily, teeth that are discolored or appear ‘sticky,” and toothache or discomfort in the mouth. As the condition progresses it can lead to receding gums, widespread tooth loss, dental misalignment issues, persistent bad breath, and pus between the teeth and gums. The advanced stage of the condition is referred to as periodontal disease.
Long-Term Consequences of Gum Disease
Researchers have shown that those who suffer from gum disease are at greater risk for other health conditions such as heart problems, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and rheumatoid arthritis. Recent studies suggest that the bacteria behind gum disease may even play a role in Alzheimer’s. These facts are a sobering reminder that the condition of our teeth and gums has consequences for every aspect of our well-being.
Treating Gum Disease
Your dentist has many treatment options when it comes to gum disease. The course of therapy he or she recommends will depend on factors such as your overall health and the degree to which the condition has progressed. Possible approaches include:
- Antimicrobial mouth rinse: chlorhexidine gluconate mouthwash is a prescription formula your dentist may recommend for controlling gum disease bacteria. The product is most effective when used alongside regular brushing.
- Scaling and root planing: this is an advanced form of cleaning in which the dentist scales, or cleans, the teeth below and above the gumline then planes, or contours, the roots to allow the gums to re-adhere to the teeth.
- Lifestyle or self-care tips: the most common cause of gum disease is inadequate oral hygiene. You dentist can help by offering brushing or flossing tips. He or she may also recommend lifestyle changes such as adopting a healthier diet or avoiding harmful substances such as tobacco or illicit drugs.
- Restoring missing teeth: Tooth loss is a common consequence of gum disease. Restoring missing teeth may require dentures, crowns, bridgework, implants, or some combination of these treatments.
Gum disease is a serious concern for all of us. Use the tips in this post to safeguard yourself from this chronic health problem. That’s they best way to keep yourself smiling over the years to come.
About the Author
Dr. Jack B. Share has been treating patients and improving smiles since 1974. He earned his DDS degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine and is a member of the American Dental Association (ADA). You can reach his office online or by calling (617) 742-1350.
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