What You May Not Know About the “Silent Disease”

Gum disease is very common, but its signs are easy to miss.

Periodontal, or gum, disease is called a “silent disease” because typically you won’t experience any pain until the disease is advanced. Research shows that about 42% of adults in the U.S. suffer from some degree of gum disease. Despite that it’s one of the most common diseases in the country and the main cause of tooth loss in adults, many of us don’t know much about this disease. We’re shedding some light on what you may not have known about this silent killer.

What is gum disease?

Gum disease is a bacterial infection that affects gums, bone, and tissue that surround and support your teeth. When teeth are not properly cleaned (brushed and flossed) plaque can build up on the teeth and gums, eventually causing inflammation. Plaque (the film that coats your teeth and gums) hardens into tartar, also called calculus. While plaque could be removed with good cleaning habits, the tartar buildup can be removed only by a dental health professional .

Two Main Stages

There are two forms of periodontal disease. Gingivitis is the milder, reversible stage, which affects the gums only. They may become swollen and red and may bleed. Left untreated, gingivitis progresses to periodontitis. At that more advanced, and thus more destructive, stage, both gums and the tissues are affected. Bacteria get into the pockets where bone and membrane support your teeth, causing the gums to recede, pulling away from your teeth, leading to bone and tissue breakdown and even tooth loss.

The Symptoms

The signs of the disease can include:

  • Chronic bad breath
  • Tender, red, swollen, or bleeding gums
  • Gums that are receding (pulling away from the teeth)
  • Loose teeth
  • Visible changes in your bite or the denture fit
  • Pain when chewing
  • Tooth sensitivity.

Common Misconceptions

Not only may you be unaware that you have the disease until you start experiencing pain and bleeding, but there are a few misconceptions some people might have because of the “silent” nature of this condition, including:

  • Gum disease affects only older people. Not true: Anyone, including children and even your pets, can develop gum disease.
  • Gum disease is not contagious. Unfortunately, also not true. You can pass the disease by sharing food and drink, and by kissing. Remember: Double dipping is not just a social faux pas .
  • Gum disease is not hereditary. Yes, if it runs in your family (although you and loved ones may not even know it), even with your impeccable oral hygiene habits, you run the risk of developing gum disease.
  • You can’t get gum disease if you have dental implants. The tissue around them can get infected too, so it’s not just people with only natural teeth who can develop the disease.
  • Chronic “morning breath” and “pink in the sink” are normal. If you find that you regularly bleed when you brush your teeth, or notice that you have not-so-fresh breath on a regular basis and despite practicing your regular cleaning routine, discuss it with your dentist, as those may be signs of gum disease.

Gum Disease Management, Prevention, and Treatment

The best method of prevention is to practice regular, good oral hygiene, and visit your dentist every six months for checkups (or more often if you are at higher risk or experiencing symptoms). Early detection, along with regular brushing and flossing, is your best defense against this common disease.

Gingivitis can be treated (and reversed) with early assessment and detection, professional teeth cleaning, and by brushing and flossing regularly. More advanced stages require more extensive, professional gum disease treatment.

Don’t wait until the pain manifests and you start experiencing such symptoms as bleeding. Please contact us with any periodontal questions or to schedule an appointment to discuss how you can take advantage of our special offers for new patients.

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