Gum Disease: A Public Health Emergency?

Gum disease. Ick! You don’t want to think about it, right? It’s somebody else’s problem. Well, maybe not. According to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “one out of every two American adults aged 30 or over” suffers from some form of gum disease. That averages out to nearly 65 million Americans. Yikes! That’s a big number, a really big number—are you one of them?

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Yes, quite possibly. First, let’s get straight to the facts. There are two types of gum disease—gingivitis and periodontitis. You’ve probably heard of gingivitis. That’s the first stage of gum disease. It’s caused by plaque and tartar that accumulate on teeth, but it’s reversible. Twice daily brushing and flossing once a day will go a long way toward removing plaque on and around your teeth.

Periodontitis is an advanced form of gum disease. And there are a host of “risk factors”—from not brushing and flossing daily and skipping your dental check-up and professional cleaning, to smoking, certain medications, hormonal changes in females, and even diabetes and other types of chronic health conditions that can affect the health of your teeth and gums. Any of these things—independently or in combination—can contribute to the development of periodontitis. In a nutshell, gingivitis, if untreated, can progress to the point of periodontitis—the worse type of gum disease that can ultimately result in tooth loss.

So how do you know if you have gum disease? You can survey your teeth and gums for symptoms: red or receding gums, swollen, irritated gums, loose teeth, etc. If you notice any of these symptoms, call our office to make an appointment with Dr. Nigro or Dr. Askins. You should also visit the dentist regularly for an examination, x-rays, and professional cleaning.

If you practice good oral health habits, eat nutritionally, and make a visit to the dentist part of your twice-annual routine, you’ll help protect yourself from the perils of gum disease and, quite possibly, feel better besides. Now that would make anyone smile! To test your knowledge and learn about common myths, visit MouthHealthy.org.

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