Gum disease is common, affecting about half of all American adults. But don’t let that convince you that it’s not serious, it is the leading cause of tooth loss among American adults. It’s also linked to systemic health conditions like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and cancer. Fortunately, for most people it is both preventable and treatable.
Symptoms of Gum Disease
Gum disease is common in part because people don’t realize they have it. Many of the early symptoms of either go unnoticed or are considered normal by people who don’t understand their severity. Some of the common symptoms include:
- Red gums
- Swollen gums
- Bleeding gums
- Chronic bad breath
- Gum sensitivity or pain
- Tooth sensitivity
- Receding gums (teeth seem to grow longer)
- Loose or mobile teeth
- Teeth falling out
People often don’t notice that gums are redder than they should be or when they’re puffy and swollen. Even symptoms like bleeding gums and gum tenderness get dismissed by people who think they’re normal consequences of brushing or flossing. Your gums should never hurt or bleed when you brush and floss. Either you’re brushing too hard or flossing wrong. In any case, you should schedule a checkup and cleaning right away. Bad breath after a certain meal is normal, but if it persists, it’s likely a sign of gum disease or an infected tooth.
If left untreated, gums will recede and might never recover on their own. Your teeth may drift and may eventually be lost.
What Causes Gum Disease
Gum disease is an infection of the area around your teeth, which is why it’s more formally known as periodontal disease (perio=around, dont=teeth). Early stages of this infection are called gingivitis, while more serious infection is called periodontitis.
Most gum disease is caused by oral bacteria that colonize the area around your teeth. They like this area because it protect them from saliva (which is toxic to them) and traps food debris they can consume.
As oral bacteria grow, they produce acid that damages teeth and gums to create larger spaces for the bacteria to colonize.
In response to this ongoing infection, your body triggers its immune system. But the very same responses that can provide short-term healing can cause long-term damage if the infection can’t be conquered. The body’s immune response contributes to receding gums and bone loss in periodontitis.
How Gum Disease Affects Your Health
Gum disease can make your teeth loose and can even lead to tooth loss. But it’s also linked to serious health effects throughout your body. It’s been linked to:
- Heart disease
- Autoimmune disorder
How does gum disease cause these impacts? Remember, gum disease is a chronic infection. Any uncontrolled infection that persists for months or years is likely to seriously impact your health.
Oral bacteria travels through your blood to your heart. It can cause a serious heart infection, but it also leads to clogging of your arteries. Not only are bacteria found in the plaque clogging your arteries, but bacteria also may be responsible for producing the fats that cause those clogs, too, perhaps more than the fat in your diet.
The chronic immune response to gum disease causes systemic inflammation, which can contribute to dementia and cancer risk. And as oral bacteria try to trick or subvert your immune system, this may lead to autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, where the immune system attacks your joints. Oral bacteria have also been shown to keep your immune system from recognizing cancer stages, which can increase your cancer risk.
Treating gum disease is vital to protecting your overall health.
Do You Need Gum Disease Treatment?
If you have gum disease, it’s important to get it treated to protect your teeth and your overall health. If you have gum disease and are looking for treatment in midtown Manhattan, please call (212) 557-8668 today for an appointment with Dr. Karthilde Appolon at Appolon Dental Group in Columbus Circle.