More American Adults May Suffer From Moderate To Severe Gum Disease

Gum disease is very common. In the UK, it is estimated that half the adult population has some degree of gum disease and most people experience it at least once. It is much less common in children.
 
If you have gum disease, your gums may bleed when you brush your teeth and you may have bad breath.
 
In severe cases, a condition called periodontitis can develop. It affects the tissues that support teeth and hold them in place. Each year in the UK there are about six cases of severe periodontitis for every 100,000 people.
 
If periodontitis is not treated, the bone in your jaw can decay and small spaces can open up between the gum and teeth. Your teeth can become loose and may eventually fall out.
 
What causes gum disease?
 
Gum disease is caused by a build-up of plaque on the teeth. Plaque is a sticky substance that contains bacteria.
Some bacteria in plaque is harmless, but some is very harmful for the health of your gums. If you do not remove plaque from your teeth by brushing them, it will build up and irritate your gums, leading to inflammation and soreness.
 
The prevalence of periodontal disease in the United States may be significantly higher than originally estimated. Research published in the Journal of Dental Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) suggests that the prevalence of periodontal disease may have been underestimated by as much as 50 percent. The implication is that more American adults may suffer from moderate to severe gum disease than previously thought. 
 
In a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) pilot study, funded by the CDC's Division of Oral Health, a full-mouth, comprehensive periodontal examination was conducted on over 450 adults over the age of 35. Periodontal disease was classified according to definitions determined by the CDC in collaboration with the AAP. The prevalence rates were then compared against the results of previous NHANES studies which used a partial-mouth periodontal examination. Historically, NHANES has served as the main source for determining prevalence of periodontal disease in US adults. The pilot study finds that the original partial-mouth study methodology may have underestimated true disease prevalence by up to 50 percent. 
 
Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the gum tissue and other structures supporting the teeth. If left untreated, it can lead to tooth loss, and may also interfere with other systems of the body. Several research studies have associated gum disease with other chronic inflammatory diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. 
 
"This study shows that periodontal disease is a bigger problem than we all thought. It is a call to action for anyone who cares about his or her oral health." said Samuel Low, DDS, MS, associate dean and professor of periodontology at the University of Florida College of Dentistry, and president of the American Academy of Periodontology. "Given what we know about the relationship between gum disease and other diseases, taking care of your oral health isn't just about a pretty smile. It has bigger implications for overall health, and is therefore a more significant public health problem." 
 
Dr. Low explained that the increased prevalence of periodontal disease makes it essential to maintain healthy teeth and gums. "Not only should you take good care of your periodontal health with daily tooth brushing and flossing, you should expect to get a comprehensive periodontal evaluation every year," he advised. A dental professional, such as a periodontist, a specialist in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of gum disease, will conduct the comprehensive exam to assess your periodontal disease status. 
 
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