Americans are not likely to think of a dental epidemic when they think of diseases plaguing the general public. But that’s exactly what gum disease is doing–ravaging the gums of many Americans so that by the time they notice it is too late. Fortunately, gum disease isn’t a silent killer. There are actually many symptoms that you can pick out even at home, but many Americans do not regularly take care of their teeth or visit a dentist.

What is gum disease?

Gum disease falls into two categories: periodontitis or gingivitis. Gingivitis is the more commonly heard of type and is not destructive. It precedes periodontitis and can be treated if proper dental hygiene is utilized. The symptoms of gingivitis include swollen gums that are red, tender, and bleeding. Those with this disease may also notice they have chronic breath, or that chewing is painful. The treatment involves seeing a dental professional who can give you a stronger antibiotic as well as at-home remedies which are as simple as brushing and flossing.

Unfortunately, gingivitis is often untreated and progresses to periodontitis. Periodontitis is destructive, and symptoms include the gum receding from the teeth to form infected pockets. The tissue and bones in your mouth will break down while your body tries to fight the infection. Without proper treatment, the sockets holding in your teeth will expand and eventually deteriorate so that the tooth cannot remain in the mouth.

Who is at risk for gum disease?

If you have good dental hygiene and visit your dentist regularly, you are at a lesser risk of gum disease. In fact, with regular checkups and following the advice of your dentist, you will likely never have to deal with gum disease! However, certain other conditions may predispose an individual for gum disease. Smoking and tobacco products will irritate the gums and make gum disease harder to treat, while those who already have an immune system disorder or disease such as HIV or AIDS are at an increased risk for having and not being able to treat gum disease. Certain medicines that dry the mouth out, such as blood pressure medicine and antidepressants, may reduce saliva and make bacteria more prone to grow. If you are taking any medicines that dry out our mouth, considering discussing this with your dentist.

How is gum disease treated?

Untreated gum disease has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease and strokes, and in women may increase the chance of delivering a low birth-weight baby. Fortunately, treatment exists to rid the bacteria causing the disease. This may include professional deep cleaning in office, medicines taken orally or injected into infected tissue pockets, or surgery if the condition has progressed too far.

While these treatments exist, it is best to avoid gum disease at all by brushing and flossing teeth twice a day. It is also important to visit the dentist regularly, and if you are eating a balanced diet you may be a step ahead of the game. If you have any concerns or think you may have gum disease, call our office today so we can set up an appointment. If you don’t have a dentist and are looking for someone to provide a professional dental exam, we are more than happy to take a look at your teeth.