One out of two American adults suffers from gingivitis, an early form of gum disease. What you may not know is that an increasing amount of research suggests that severe gum disease may be associated with numerous other conditions including diabetes and heart disease. Experts believe people don’t clearly understand the true effect severe periodontal disease may have on overall health, which explains this discrepancy. (1)
Types of Gum Disease
There are two main types of gum disease—gingivitis and periodontitis
- Gingivitis: Otherwise known as the mild form of gum disease, gingivitis is typically the first stage of gum disease. Early stages of gingivitis can cause red and swollen gums as a result of plaque build-up. While gums may be irritated as a result of gingivitis, the teeth are still firmly held in place and no irreparable bone or tissue damage has yet occurred. Signs of gingivitis include red gums, swollen gums, and gums that bleed when you floss or brush. While not all gingivitis will progress to periodontitis, if not treated properly, gingivitis can progress to more severe gum disease. (2)
- Periodontitis: Untreated gingivitis may advance to periodontitis, otherwise known as advanced gum disease. With periodontitis, your gum and bone begin to pull away from the teeth and form pockets that can collect bacteria and debris, which can lead to infection. In addition, this bacteria can start to break down the tissue and bone that hold your teeth in place. Advanced gum disease is one of the leading causes of tooth loss in adults. (2)
Gum Disease Myths
Since there appears to be some confusion about the importance of treating gum disease, The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) has published the following myths about gum disease.
- Bleeding gums are no big deal. Bleeding gums are an important sign of gum disease and should be taken seriously. If you notice this symptom, schedule an appointment with a dental professional.
- Flossing every day isn’t important. Diligent oral hygiene, which includes flossing every day, helps treat and prevent gingivitis as part of a comprehensive dental plan.
- Visiting a periodontist is scary. If you are diagnosed with advanced gum disease, you may want to consult with a periodontist, a dentist who specializes in gum disease. They are equipped with the latest treatments and technologies to treat advanced gum disease.
- Once a tooth is lost to gum disease, it’s gone forever. Advanced gum disease is one of the leading causes of tooth loss in adults. However, dental implants can effectively replace teeth that are lost due to gum disease.
- Poor oral hygiene is the only cause of gum disease. While poor oral hygiene often causes gum disease, there are other factors that increase your risk. The use of tobacco, poor diet, stress, and genetics may also play a role in gum health.
As with any disease diagnosis, you should take gum disease seriously. Speak with your dental professional and follow their advice for improving your overall oral health and the health of your gums.