Every day there’s a party going on in your mouth. Over 6 billion bacteria, including 700 different species, reside in your mouth. Most play nicely with the others and provide health benefits, but a few troublemakers provoke disease. When the party goes well, your good bacteria contain the bad bacteria, and the party stays in your mouth. But if things get out of hand, the bad bacteria can quickly disrupt the festivities. Before you know it, you have gum disease, and soon thereafter it’s not just your mouth that’s complaining but your neighboring organs too. The culprit is gum disease,and the cause is usually poor oral hygiene. More about this later.
So, what is gum disease? Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is an inflammation of your gums caused by a bacterial infection that comes from built up plaque, the sticky film of bacteria that’s constantly formed on your teeth. If it’s allowed to progress untreated, gum disease will harm your gums’ ability to hold your teeth in place, which results in loose teeth, and eventual tooth loss. Gum disease will harm your oral health, even more than cavities, and, unfortunately, it can also harm your overall health.
Gum Disease Harms More Than Your Gums
Gum disease is also linked to other serious health conditions. The oral bacteria that causes gum disease, Porphyromonas gingivalis, doesn’t stay in your mouth, it travels. If it breaks into your bloodstream, this bacteria can reach organs throughout your body, including the brain. Here are some of the serious health issues linked to gum disease:
- Alzheimer’s – One study claims that people who had chronic gum disease for 10 years or more, were at a 70% higher risk of Alzheimer’s than people without gum disease.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Heart Disease
- Cancer – One oncology investigation found that men with advanced gum disease were 45% more likely to be diagnosed with cancer.
You Can Prevent Gum Disease
Do you have gum disease? Some of the common signs of gum disease include red, swollen, or tender gums that bleed easily; receding gums (gum recession), and having on-going bad breath, or a bad taste in your mouth. If you think you have gum disease, you’re not alone, as one study claims that 85% of Americans suffer from some form of it. The good news? You can prevent it. And if you already have it, and it’s detected early, gum disease can be reversed or stopped. And the best way to prevent gum disease is with good oral hygiene. Here’s how:
- Brush your teeth twice a day – Are you brushing correctly? Find out here!
- Keep On Flossing – Floss wisely – Master the art of flossing here.
- Take it Easy on the Mouthwash – Use it once in a while, rather than every day. Why? Mouth wash can disrupt the proper growth of the good bacteria in your mouth; much like taking antibiotics every day could eventually harm your immune system.
- Eat More Fruits & Veggies – Consuming more fiber actually helps stimulate the saliva in your mouth, which, in turn, helps flush excess food and harmful acids out of your mouth. A study found that eating high fiber goods helped reduce the progression of gum disease.
- Rinse Your Mouth with Water After Meals – Following meals and snacks, rinse your mouth with water, then brush your teeth 30 to 45 minutes later. Water helps rinse some of the bacteria out until you can brush your teeth.
- Visit Your Dentist Twice a Year – Don’t miss your dental appointments! Your semi-annual dental exams and teeth cleanings will go a long way to keep the bacteria causing plaque in check, as well as help your dentist keep an eye out for any signs of gum disease.
Gum disease is truly a party pooper. Don’t let it ruin your party, or your overall health. Preventing gum disease begins with good oral hygiene. And if you do have advanced gum disease, there are still plenty of options that your dentist can offer to help treat it, such as root planing (a deeper tooth cleaning), antibiotic medications, like Arestin TM, or periodontal surgery.
If you haven’t seen a dentist in a while, or you’re concerned that you may have some symptoms related to gum disease, please call (206) 524-1000 to schedule an exam or request an appointment online.