More than half of the American adults suffer from some forms of gum disease according to studies from Center for Disease Control. In fact, a specific form of gum disease known as aggressive periodontitis can happen to people in their teenage years, leaving these individuals with detrimental destruction of their gums in their early years.
Gum disease is also known as periodontal disease. Like many of the chronic inflammatory diseases (e.g. diabetes, heart disease, atherosclerosis, arthritis), gum disease usually does not result in pain until the disease has progressed to the end stage when the patient is at high risk for tooth loss due to gum disease. Therefore, gum disease is often not diagnosed at early stage or is unfortunately overlooked even by your general dentists! Gum disease should be treated as early as possible because it is more difficult to treat when considerable amount of gingival and bony destructions have occurred.
Clinical signs of severe gum disease:
- red and bleeding gums
- receding gums
- bad breath
- loosening and shifting of teeth over time
- bite change
In gum disease, hundreds of different bacterial species grow on the tooth surface and deep in the gums that surround teeth. These bacteria constantly divide and eventually lead to destruction of the gums and jawbone around teeth. One can think of gum disease as a cut on the skin that is constantly loaded with bacteria and never heals leading to a chronic infection in the body. Therefore, gum disease has been linked to the overall health of the body. For example, patients with gum disease are at a higher risk of diabetes and vice versa. In addition, gum disease has been linked to cardiovascular disease, pre-term low birth weight and other systemic health issues.
Risk factors of gum disease:
- poor oral hygiene
- use of tobacco (smoking)
- uncontrolled diabetes
- hormonal changes (pregnancy, menstrual cycle)
- tooth clenching/grinding
- certain medications