There’s a wise old proverb attributed to Ben Franklin that warns us not to put off tomorrow something we should be handling today. This saying couldn’t be truer when it comes to gum (periodontal) disease, the “silent killer” that can lead to tooth loss if it’s not properly addressed NOW. The CDC tells us that older individuals have the highest rates of periodontal disease and that, in fact, more than 70% of Americans age 65 and older have some form of gum disease!
Stages of Gum Disease
Gum disease usually starts off painlessly. The disease ranges from early-stage gingivitis (which can be reversed with early detection and professional cleaning) to periodontitis, a more destructive stage that can often still be addressed (but not totally reversed) with more serious surgical intervention. Signs of periodontitis can include increased spaces between your teeth, receding gums, pain and even loose teeth.
Visiting your regular dentist (someone that can catch potential problems early), brushing your twice a day and flossing daily are ways of preventing gum disease. Once diagnosed, keeping regular hygiene maintenance appointments will allow us to address underlying infection and soft gum tissue recession.
Gum Disease and Other Serious Illnesses
In recent decades we’ve learned that the negative impact of gum disease doesn’t stop with your smile. Increased risk of stroke, premature deliveries, heart disease and even some cancers are just some of the serious “systemic” (of the body) issues that are related to the harmful bacterial inflammation caused by gum disease entering the bloodstream.
The Alzheimer’s Society reports that patients with the disease seem to decline even more quickly when they have gum disease. Tufts University is one of many organizations linking the specific bacteria of gum disease – F. nucleatum – and Alzheimer’s disease. They call their findings “a warning sign to researchers and clinicians alike.”
If you suspect gum disease, or have been advised by your regular dentist to see a periodontist, schedule your appointment today. You don’t need a referral. Remember, when you address gum disease, you’re not only protecting your smile, you could be helping to protect your entire body!