Gum disease is one of the most widespread health problems in the United States, affecting roughly half of all adults. Although many cases are mild, the long-term effects of gum disease can increase a variety of risks that extend beyond just the gums. In the interest of helping our Orange County patients protect their overall health, we offer the following information on the potential consequences of gum disease. By understanding these dangers and seeking the appropriate restorative dentistry treatment when necessary, you can prevent numerous potential dental and medical complications.
How Does Gum Disease Form?
Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is the result of a bacterial infection within gum tissue. Like tooth decay, this infection is caused by natural bacteria in the mouth that form a plaque biofilm that grows and spreads. When not removed, plaque and the bacteria within it cause an inflammation of the gums, gradually breaking down tissue. Although all gum disease is essentially an infection, the type and severity of disease depends on where it has spread to:
- Gingivitis: When disease is limited to the gums, it is commonly known as gingivitis. All mild forms of gum disease start out as gingivitis, although it has the potential to spread pockets of infection deep within the gums when not controlled by hygiene or professional treatment.
- Periodontitis: If disease spreads to bone tissue in the jaw and around teeth, it is known as periodontitis. Because periodontitis forms from advanced gingivitis, and due to the likelihood of bone loss, it is usually regarded as the more dangerous form of gum disease.
Dental Problems Caused by Gum Disease
Even in its early stages, gum disease can pose multiple risks to the health of one’s gums and teeth. As gingivitis progresses, so will its effects and possible complications. Depending on the severity of disease, patients may experience any of the following problems:
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Light bleeding when brushing or flossing
- Reddened gums
- Sore or sensitive gums
- Receding gums
- Loose gums
- Pockets forming beneath the gum line
- Loose or shifting teeth
- Bone loss in the jaw
- Tooth loss
As with any disease, patients should only expect milder symptoms at first. Most often, a good at-home hygiene regimen and regular dental check-ups are enough to keep gingivitis in check. If your cosmetic dentist notices pockets of infection forming within gums, periodontal treatment will be recommended to stop it from spreading.
The Effects of Gum Disease on Overall Health
When gum disease is allowed to persist, its effects are not exclusively limited to the mouth. Studies suggest a significant link between gum disease and numerous other health concerns, some of which can be life threatening.
One of the most widely referenced effects of heart disease is an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. It is believed that bacteria from gum disease can eventually travel through the blood stream to other parts of the body, resulting in a higher chance of heart problems and stroke. Similarly, respiratory diseases such as pneumonia have also been linked to the prevalence of gum disease, likely because the bacteria may be inhaled into the lungs.
Gum disease has also been shown to increase glucose levels in people with diabetes; and in return, diabetes makes gum disease harder to control. Furthermore, the risk of developing various cancers - namely, lung cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, and blood cancers - is significantly increased for people with long-term gum disease. Finally, gum disease is believed to increase the risk of certain birth complications in pregnant women, such as premature birth and low birth weight.
Keep Gum Disease Under Control
With the right treatment, you can reduce or eliminate your gum disease for good. No matter the severity of your problem, Dr. Caldwell has the experience and technology necessary to keep your gums and teeth free of decay. Contact our office to inquire about our restorative techniques or to schedule an appointment with us.