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Gum Disease—Are You at Risk?

Gum Disease—Are You at Risk?

IT IS one of the most common oral diseases in the world. Yet, this disease in its initial stages may not cause any immediate symptoms. This dangerous subtlety is characteristic of gum disease. The International Dental Journal lists periodontal disease among oral disorders that pose “a serious public-health problem.” It adds that the impact of oral disease “on individuals and communities in terms of pain and suffering, impairment of function and reduced quality of life, is considerable.A discussion of this widespread condition may help you reduce your risk of gum disease.

Facts About Gum Disease

There are different stages of gum disease. The initial stage, called gingivitis, is an inflammation of the gums. Bleeding gums may be a sign of this stage. This may occur during brushing and flossing or for no apparent reason. Also, bleeding during a gum examination may be indicative of gingivitis.

Gum disease that progresses from this stage is called periodontitis. At this point, oral structures that support your teeth, such as bone and gum tissue, begin to be destroyed. This form of gum disease may not cause symptoms until it reaches an advanced stage. Some signs of periodontitis may be gum pockets; loose teeth; gaps forming between teeth; bad breath; receding gums, that is, gums that are pulling away from the teeth, giving the teeth a longer appearance; and bleeding gums.

Cause and Effect of Gum Disease

Several factors can increase the risk of gum disease. Dental plaque, which is a thin film of bacteria that regularly forms on the teeth, is the most common cause. If plaque is not removed, the bacteria can cause gum swelling. As this process progresses, the gums start to separate from the teeth, allowing the bacteria-laden plaque to grow under the gum line. Once the bacteria has infiltrated to this point, the inflammatory process advances  by destroying bone and gum tissue. Dental plaque, either above or below the gum line, can harden into calculus (or what is commonly known as tartar). Calculus is also covered with bacteria, and because of its hardness and adherence to the teeth, it is not as easily removed as plaque. Therefore, bacteria can continue to affect the gums adversely.

There are other factors that can contribute to your risk of having gum disease. These may include poor oral hygiene, medications that suppress the immune system, viral infections, stress, uncontrolled diabetes, excessive alcohol consumption, tobacco use, and hormonal changes because of pregnancy.

The effects of gum disease can have other implications for you. A painful mouth or the loss of teeth from gum disease can hinder your ability to chew your food and enjoy it. Your speech and appearance may suffer. Also, research has shown that oral health is closely related to overall health.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Gum Disease

How do you know if you have gum disease? You may notice some of the signs already mentioned in this article. If you do, it may be wise to consult a qualified dental professional who can assess the health of your gums.

Is gum disease treatable? In its early stages, gum disease may be reversed. If gum disease progresses to the point of periodontitis, then the goal is to halt the progress of the disease before it continues to destroy the bone and tissue that surround the teeth. Dental professionals use specialized tools that can remove plaque and calculus from your teeth, both above and below the gum line.

Even if you have limited or no access to professional dental care, the key to reducing your risk of this subtle yet potentially destructive disease is prevention. Proper and regular oral self-care is the best prevention to reduce the risk of gum disease.