Gum disease is a relatively common dental condition and according to the CDC over half of adults age 30 or older have some form of gum disease. In its initial stages it may be relatively harmless, but in its advanced stages it is a very serious condition.
Part of the problem is that many people don’t really understand gum disease. That is something that you should rectify – right here and right now.
“What is Gum Disease?”
Gum disease is essentially an infection of the gums. Its early stages are known as gingivitis, and take place when plaque builds up and the gums become irritated and inflamed. In some cases there may be a bit of discomfort, and the gums may bleed – especially when brushed.
If left untreated, gingivitis can develop into periodontitis when the inner layer of the gums and bones start to pull away and form pockets. As they start to separate this can cause injury to the soft tissue, and your teeth may become loose as well.
In the long term your gums can become very painful, persistently bleed, and chewing will be painful. On top of that you could start to lose your teeth, and gum disease has also been linked to heart disease and strokes.
“What Causes Gum Disease?”
The main cause of gum disease is definitely plaque that is allowed to accumulate over time. However there are a number of other risk factors that you should know about:
- Poor oral hygiene habits that include not regularly brushing or flossing can directly contribute to the build-up of plaque.
- Smoking or chewing tobacco products inhibit the gums ability to heal, and as such make it more likely that gum disease will get worse.
- Crooked teeth often result in plaque build-ups because they are more difficult to brush and floss.
- Genetic factors (i.e. family history) have been shown to affect the build-up of plaque as well as the likelihood of developing gum disease.
- Medical conditions that affect the immune system such as HIV or diabetes can increase the likelihood of infection and may increase the risk of gum disease.
- Certain medications can affect oral health in different ways, such as by inhibiting the production or saliva, or affecting the growth of gum tissue.
- Hormonal changes during puberty or pregnancy, menopause and menstruation for women can make gums more sensitive.
Keep in mind none of the risk factors listed above will directly cause gum disease. Instead they can contribute to an increased risk of gum disease developing if you allow plaque to build up.
If you feel that you may have gum disease, you should definitely visit your dentist or a gum specialist to have it diagnosed. Assuming it is treated early the long term impact of gum disease will be far less than if you delay.
As with most dental conditions it is always better to be safe rather than sorry, so any hint of gum disease should prompt you to book an appointment with your dentist.