Undoubtedly everyone has heard about the problem of gum disease, periodontal disease, or “pyorrhea”, which can cause bad breath, loosening of the teeth, abscesses, and pain in the gums. People with periodontal disease have a lifelong simmering bacterial infection around the gum pocket that releases a steady stream of toxic chemicals causing chronic inflammation of the gums. We have long known about the destruction that periodontal disease can do to the teeth and gums, but recent research is showing that bacteria that cause gum disease can also affect other organs of the body, resulting in blood clots, heart attacks, strokes, lung problems, premature low birth weight babies, and increased complications with diabetes. Early detection of gum disease is now imperative for the maintenance of the health of your entire body as well as the health of your mouth.
Approximately three quarters of adults over the age of 35 have some degree of periodontal disease. It is virtually painless until the final stage, when a tooth will definitely be lost. The disease occurs inside the gum pocket, where the bacteria are hidden and protected unless cleaned out, making it difficult to see the warning signs. Some signs of the disease to look for are:
1. red, swollen gums that bleed when brushing
2. persistent bad breath
3. spaces that start to form between teeth due to their loosening
4. a chronic sore feeling in and around the gums.
If you suspect these warning signs apply to you, it is important to see a dentist for a complete exam, x-rays, and treatment plan. Treatment includes deep cleaning in the gums under a local anesthetic (for comfort), recommendations for improving the cleaning regimen at home (including special brushes, floss and water irrigating devices that flush plaque and bacteria out from the gums), possible gum surgery to eliminate the gum pockets, and a schedule of regular professional visits. Your teeth and overall health are definitely worth the investment!