The Causes and Treatment of Gum Disease

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Gum disease is a serious condition that sadly plagues so many in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 47.2% of adults who are 30 years and older have some form of periodontal disease, a severe form of gum disease. The CDC also reports that the incidence of periodontal disease increases with age, with approximately 70.1% of adults 65 years and older having periodontal disease. Certain risk factors also exist, as the condition is more common in men, individuals living below the federal poverty level, those with less than a high school education, and smokers, according to the CDC. In addition, those with poor oral hygiene, compromised immune systems, diabetes, teeth crowding, and certain genetic factors are more susceptible to having periodontal disease.

One of the most common signs of gum disease is oral inflammation. This not only affects the gums, but also the bone that supports the teeth. Periodontal disease often results in bone loss, which can cause teeth to become mobile and if untreated can lead to tooth loss.

An early stage of gum disease, known as gingivitis, as well as periodontal disease may be painless, which is why it is important to know what signs and symptoms to beware:

  • Easily bleeding gums
  • Swollen, red or tender gums
  • Gums pulling away from the teeth (gum recession)
  • Persistent bad breath or taste in the mouth
  • Mobile teeth
  • A change in your bite
  • Ill-fitting dentures
  • Pus surrounding the teeth and gums
  • Pain when chewing
  • Tooth sensitivity to hot or cold

One of the main culprits of gum disease is bacterial plaque. If not removed, it can harden into dental calculus, which requires the help of a dental professional to remove. Both bacterial plaque and dental calculus break down your tooth enamel and infect the supporting gums and bone. Thankfully, gum disease can be managed and even prevented. Good oral hygiene habits including brushing, flossing, and visiting the dentist regularly can help fight gum disease. Individuals with periodontal disease may require more advanced dental cleanings, known as scaling and root planning or deep cleanings. Your dental professional will remove dental plaque, calculus, and food particles both above and below the gum line. If necessary, your dental professional will recommend other periodontal treatments depending on your individual needs, such as gingival flap surgery or bone grafting.

Managing the health of your gums is important also to help minimize your risk of worsening or developing other health conditions. For instance, periodontal disease has been linked with conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, according to the CDC. Taking care of your gums can go a long way in helping keep you healthy overall!