If you have been told you have periodontal (gum) disease, you're not alone. Many adults in the U.S. currently have some form of the disease. Periodontal diseases range from simple gum inflammation to serious disease that results in major damage to the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth. In the worst cases, teeth are lost.
Whether your gum disease is stopped, slowed, or gets worse depends a great deal on how well you care for your teeth and gums every day, from this point forward.
Our mouths are full of bacteria. These bacteria, along with mucus and other particles, constantly form a sticky, colorless "plaque" on teeth. Brushing and flossing help get rid of plaque. Plaque that is not removed can harden and form "tartar" that brushing doesn't clean. Only a professional cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist can remove tartar.
The longer plaque and tartar are on teeth, the more harmful they become. The bacteria cause inflammation of the gums that is called "gingivitis." In gingivitis, the gums become red, swollen and can bleed easily. Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease that can usually be reversed with daily brushing and flossing, and regular cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist. This form of gum disease does not include any loss of bone and tissue that hold teeth in place.
More than one in three people over age 30 has periodontitis or periodontal disease. This serious oral bacteria infection can destroy the soft tissue and bone that support your teeth, and is a major cause of tooth loss in adults.
It is easy to see that gum deterioration and loss of teeth result from poor oral health, but research has indicated that other illnesses may have roots in improper dental maintenance. In fact, if you do not have good oral health, you simply aren't healthy.
Dr. Phil Wenk, D.D.S, president and CEO of Delta Dental of Tennessee, says that periodontitis can lead to other health conditions or complications. "Research has linked periodontal disease to systemic disorders such as diabetes, respiratory disease and cardiovascular disease. There's also research which correlates periodontal disease with low birth-weight and pre-term babies."
Diabetics, for example, may have a harder time controlling their glucose with the presence of an oral infection. Yet with additional professional cleanings, it has been shown that glucose levels may even drop as much as one point. For every one-point reduction in hemoglobin A1c, a blood test that is a standard measure of glucose control, there appears to be a 40 percent reduction in the risk for diabetic complications. A one-point reduction also appears to decrease the incidence of heart attacks in diabetics by 14 percent and diabetes-related deaths by 21 percent.