Maybe you’ve heard that gum disease is bad, but you’re not entirely sure why. Luckily for you, September is Gum Care Month, making it a great time to learn about taking care of your gums and the consequences of failing to do so! Knowing what you’re up against can give you the tools you need to avoid or deal with it, so here are a few interesting facts about gum disease that are better read about than experienced!
Gum Disease Comes in Stages
Plaque is a transparent film that develops over your teeth as bacteria multiply in your mouth, and it will continue to accumulate unless it is regularly removed. Plaque building up at the gumline can irritate the gums, leading to inflammation called gingivitis. This is the first stage of gum disease, and afflicted gums can show symptoms like bleeding, swelling, and an angry red color.
If gingivitis is allowed to progress, it will advance to a much more severe stage of infection called periodontitis. Periodontitis degrades both the jawbone and the gum tissue and will eventually lead to tooth loss. In fact, gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.
Gum Disease Can Affect More Than Your Gums
When your gums become infected, the blood vessels within them can spread the bacteria to other parts of the body. This can lead to potentially life-threatening secondary infections such as sepsis. These bacteria can also spread from your mouth into your airway where they can cause respiratory illnesses.
To make matters worse, these bacteria in the bloodstream may lead to further accumulation of plaque in the blood vessels, which can stress the cardiovascular system and contribute to heart disease or heart attacks. The effort of constantly fighting a chronic infection can also strain the endocrine system, aggravating or raising the risk of developing diabetes. It gets even worse when you consider that diabetes hinders healing and the immune system, making it harder for your body to fight gum disease. Dealing with gum disease and diabetes can lead to a brutal cycle of one worsening the other.
Gum Disease Can Spread to Other People
Most people don’t find bleeding gums to be very romantic. Unfortunately, gum disease can be spread through oral contact like kissing or mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. It can even be passed from one person to another due to double-dipping food items in a shared bowl. Pregnant women are more prone to inflamed gums due to hormonal changes, and for this reason, many OB doctors recommend that they have regular dental exams so they don’t pass gum disease to their unborn child.
While gum disease is gross, contagious, and dangerous to your overall health, it is completely preventable in most cases. Practicing excellent oral hygiene, seeing your dentist regularly, and making smart choices about what you eat and drink can minimize your risk of developing it and keep your smile free of bleeding and irritation for life.
About the Author
Dr. J. Robert Donnelly earned his Doctor of Dental Surgery at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio after serving as an officer in the United States Marine Corps. He is a proud member of many dental organizations, including the American Dental Association, the Academy of General Dentistry, and the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. His office in San Marcos, TX offers family, cosmetic, restorative, and emergency dentistry in addition to periodontal treatments. For more information on gum disease, contact his office online or dial (512) 396-5225.