Most people do not realize that gum disease is the number one problem that we treat as dentists, not cavities. Eighty percent of the American population has some sort of gum disease, the early stages of which is gingivitis. This is when the gums become swollen, sore, and bleed.
Most people do not take much notice of bleeding gums. What we tell our patients is, if you were brushing your hair and your scalp was bleeding, you would get worried. Or if you were washing your hands and your hands were bleeding, you would get worried. So similarly, when you are brushing your teeth and you see blood, you should be worried and go in for a consultation with your dentist. Gum disease is a serious issue and is the major cause of tooth loss. If left untreated, the gums will loosen around the teeth and the teeth will not have support to keep them in place which, leads to their loss.
One of the scary things about gum disease is that the early signs are not painful, so people do not think they need to go in for treatment or even a consultation, because it does not disrupt their daily routine. It is important that you talk to your dentist when you see any changes in your teeth or gums. Getting the problem treated early on can prevent more complicated issues from arising later…such as heart disease.
When a person has gum disease and the gums bleed, the bacteria from the mouth get into your system by going into your bloodstream. Then the bacteria go into the arteries near your heart, so gum disease is closely linked to heart disease. We are now realizing that when you take care of your gums, you are also taking care of your heart. The same thing is true for diabetes and several other inflammatory processes. Research shows that the plaque that builds up in arteries and leads to heart attacks are only found in one other place in the body – the mouth. So there is a connection between gum disease and heart disease. As dentists, we now know that keeping gum disease at bay is preventing heart disease at the same time.
People think that dentists want them to come in for routine cleanings because it is good for the dentist’s business. Not true, we want patients to get their teeth and gums checked and cleaned regularly in order to avoid problems like gingivitis and gum disease. By doing so, we can see the early signs of gum disease and prevent it from becoming a serious issue.