Some patients are surprised when we tell them they have early-stage periodontal (gum) disease. This is because gum disease, in many instances, begins without obvious symptoms.
When it comes to our oral health, there is a misconception by many people that “If it doesn’t hurt, then everything is fine.” For the most part, we tend to react to things we can see or feel when it comes to our health.
For example, when you see a cut has become swollen and red, it’s obvious that inflammation is underway. When you get the flu and run a fever, there is no doubt that you are ill.
Yet, when gum disease begins, its presence is not obvious. Like many diseases that form inside our bodies, it begins silently. And, because some symptoms are deemed ‘normal,’ gum disease is allowed to progress further.
Over 47 percent of American adults have some level of gum disease. I believe this is because many individuals are unaware of the signs and symptoms. Too, early warning signs, such as seeing blood in the sink when brushing, are assumed by some people as a sign they are doing a good job of brushing. (BTW- Your gums should never bleed!)
Other symptoms of gum disease, such as frequent bad breath or tender gums, are often ignored until discomfort increases — and it will.
Gum disease can form easier than you might imagine. The typical process of gum disease is:
• Oral Bacteria Accumulation: The mouth is a dark, warm, moist environment. What better place for bacteria to breed and thrive? Although bacteria in our bodies, including our mouths, is a fact of life, there is a certain level that is manageable. When too much bacteria accumulate, infection takes over.
• Formation of Plaque: When brushing, flossing and saliva flow fail to control bacteria levels in the mouth, their accumulation forms a sticky film you can feel on teeth. Known as plaque, this film can form quickly over the course of a day. As a matter of fact, you can probably feel it on teeth and gums before your evening tooth brushing.
• Calculus (or Tartar): When plaque is not removed, the sticky film can harden into calculus. Calculus (or tartar) is a cement-hard form of oral bacteria that forms on teeth and cannot be brushed or flossed away. Once in this form, it can only be removed by special instruments used by dental professionals. This bacterial mass will continue to breed, attacking tooth enamel and gum tissues.
• Gingivitis: This is early-stage gum disease. In this, some symptoms may be obvious. Gums may be tender and bleed while brushing. Your gums may ache in some areas and your breath may be bad more often. What you may not notice, however, is the inflammation that is taking place. When effective measures are taken early, you may be able to restore your gums to a healthy state through thorough brushing, flossing, keeping the mouth moist and limiting sweets. When gum disease is not resolved at this point, the inflammation below the gums begins attacking tooth and bone structures.
• Periodontal (Gum) Disease: At this level, the gums are inflamed and tender. Gum tissues may bleed easily when brushing. Your breath may be persistently bad and gum tissue may darken in color. The gums may also pull away from some teeth, exposing darker root portions. As the infectious bacteria run rampant, pus pockets may form on gum tissues and teeth may loosen, eventually requiring removal of some teeth. As a matter of fact, gum disease is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss.
As devastating as tooth loss can be, research has linked the bacteria of gum disease to serious health problems elsewhere in the body. This includes heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, some cancers, arthritis, diabetes, preterm babies and impotency.
Lately, links to pancreatic cancer and Alzheimer’s disease are being studied. (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160310141330.htm) (http://www.foxnews.com/health/2016/06/07/new-study-links-pancreatic-cancer-to-2-types-bacteria-found-in-gum-disease.html)
The whole-body health risks from oral bacteria is possible because of its ability to travel throughout the body. By entering the bloodstream through tears in diseased gum tissues, oral bacteria can create inflammatory triggers. Science has found that systemic inflammation is one of the greatest threats to our overall health.
Yet, gum disease is one of the most preventable of all diseases and requires only simple measures. Twice daily brushing, daily flossing, and keeping your mouth moist are easy ways to keep oral bacteria levels under control between regular dental check-ups and cleanings.
When it comes to your 6-month check-ups, they are vital to keeping a healthy smile. During these visits, accumulated tartar can be removed and signs of early gum disease or other problems can be noted.
Maintaining good oral health at home can save you much in time and money by helping you avoid problems in the first place. Too, keeping a healthy mouth helps you to protect your overall health by lowering risks associated with oral bacteria.
If you are experiencing symptoms of gum disease, call 586-739-2155. We can arrange an examination to determine if, indeed, gum disease is present. If so, we’ll discuss a course of treatment to restore your smile to a healthy state.