If you weren’t already aware, periodontal disease—more commonly known as gum disease—is one of the most widespread chronic conditions in today’s population. It’s an infection of the mouth that affects the tissues surrounding the teeth. If this condition is left untreated, it can lead to tooth loss. In the United States alone, it’s estimated that 6 million people suffer from some form of periodontal disease. In Canada, according to the Canadian Dental Association, gum disease develops in 70% of Canadians at different points in their lives.

Many people have only a limited understanding of what periodontal disease is and how it can affect the health of one’s mouth, as well as the entire body. To have a better understanding about periodontal disease, here are six facts that you may not have known:

Fact #1: It Is a Chronic Disease

Periodontal disease is silent and painless—until its later stages. In the beginning, it is a slow-working infection that destroys the connections between your gums and your bones. If this disease is left undetected and untreated, the progress of the disease may result in loosened teeth over time, and eventually tooth loss, gum abscess, and other oral health problems. That’s why it’s recommended to see your dentist for regular cleanings and examinations, so these issues can be remedied before they manifest into bigger problems.

Fact #2: Bleeding Gums Indicate Periodontal Disease

An early stage indicator of periodontal disease is gingivitis, which refers to the inflammation of the gums, especially at the tips of the teeth. This is closely associated with gums that bleed during regular routine brushing and flossing, causing irritation, redness, and swelling. Other signs of gum problems include:

  • Swollen or red gums when not brushing or flossing
  • Gums that are tender or bleed easily without brushing or flossing
  • Chronic bad breath
  • Areas of the gum that appear to be pulling back from the teeth
  • Pain when chewing any hard or soft foods
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Teeth that feel loose

In one study conducted in the United States, over half of Americans aged 31 and up suffered from bleeding gums. While many people think that it’s normal for their gums to bleed when they brush or floss their teeth, this is actually an indication of early signs of periodontal disease. Fortunately, gingivitis can usually be reversed by the implementation of healthy oral hygiene habits, such as brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash on a regular basis.

Fact #3: Periodontal Disease Can Contribute to Other Health Problems

Since periodontal disease is a long-term condition, your body’s immune system will grow weak over time from constantly fighting this infection. This can contribute to a host of other health problems, such as diabetes, stroke, and respiratory disease.

Left untreated, chronic gum inflammation can create paths for invasive bacteria from plaque to enter into the body’s bloodstream. In fact, some studies indicate that people who suffer from periodontal disease are twice as likely to develop heart disease as those who have healthy gums.

Fact #4: Lifestyle Choices Can Put You at Risk

While the main cause of periodontal disease is likely bacterial buildup from plaque, there are a number of risk factors that could increase the severity of this condition. These include:

  • Smoking. Habitual smokers tend to develop more treatment-resistant periodontal disease.
  • Stress. Stress weakens your body’s immune system in general, which makes it that much harder to combat infections, such as periodontal disease.
  • Grinding or clenching of teeth. This practice appears to speed up the breakdown of periodontal ligaments and bones, thus increasing the severity of any disease present.
  • Unhealthy eating habits. Lack of proper nutrition can have a negative impact on the overall effectiveness of your immune system and can promote the growth of harmful bacteria in your mouth.

If you identify with one or more of these bad habits, consider changing your lifestyle choices for healthier options. Not only will you feel better overall, but you’ll reduce the risk of developing periodontal disease.

Fact #5: Regular Cleanings Can Prevent Periodontal Disease

Keeping up with a regular schedule of routine teeth cleaning is one of the best ways to combat periodontal disease. Habitually brushing and flossing your teeth can alleviate the possibility of contracting the disease, and, in some cases, even eliminate gingivitis. In addition, periodic visits to your dentist for teeth cleaning will help you bypass a lot of the problems that come from periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease is a prevalent condition in today’s world, but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer from its ill effects. Apart from your daily routine of oral hygiene, make sure to keep up with your regular visits to the dental office. Cleanings and checkups are important to keep your gums and teeth as healthy as possible.

KingTown Dental is a family-friendly dental practice in Courtice, Ontario. We’re here to help you fight against periodontal disease and keep your mouth happy and healthy. If you think you might be suffering from periodontal disease or haven’t had a regular oral cleaning, contact us today to book your appointment. We want to ensure you’ll be smiling for a long time!