The most common disease in the United States is not what you may think. Heart disease, stroke, or cancer come to mind, but actually gum disease is the single most prevalent disease in America. About 80% of the population has some form of gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, periodontitis (advanced), and gingivitis (mild).
Gum disease is an infection of the gums and bone that support teeth, and it usually starts early in life, then progresses as a person ages. It all starts when plaque hardens into tartar (also called calculus) below the gum line. This irritates vulnerable soft tissues and infection can set in. Combined with decaying food particles lodged between teeth and bacteria emitted by plaque, the infection can spread quickly. Symptoms are so mild in the early phase, many patients don't recognize them: red, tender, swollen gums, bleeding when brushing teeth.
As the condition progresses, gums recede from teeth and pockets of bacteria form. The bacteria can destroy gum tissue and bone, causing tooth and bone loss.
Recent research reveals that gum disease is linked to increased risk for major overall health problems, including but not limited to stroke, heart disease, respiratory problems, osteoporosis, diabetes complications, low birth weight, and most recently, dementia. Because of these findings, research continues. We may learn much more in the next few years.
We can detect early warning signs of gum disease at your regular dental checkups. At this stage, prevention might be as simple as changing your brushing technique, improving your flossing routine, or changing the products you use for oral care at home.
Once gum disease sets in, we can often treat it with non-surgical therapy including:
In advanced cases, surgery may be needed. If so, we we will refer you to a trusted periodontist.