Gum Disease: A Preventable Yet Pervasive Problem

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Gum disease affects people worldwide. These young students live in Gaza City.

At the end of September, the International and American Associations for Dental Research released a study based on meta analysis of 20 years of data on noncommunicable diseases– almost 300,000 individuals, in 37 countries– concluding that in 2010, periodontitis was the sixth most prevalent health condition faced worldwide.

The study underlines the major health burden that gum disease places on the world’s population. In addition to pain, swelling, or loss of teeth, periodontitis can have serious systemic problems as well; it has been linked with heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and premature birth or low birth weight in newborns.

The nature of noncommunicable disease

While reading it, members of Advanced Family Dental noted that this study was analyzing noncommunicable diseases worldwide– in the medical world, “noncommunicable” is often used to describe diseases strongly correlated to lifestyle, are chronic, and can often be preventable. Other commonly cited noncommunicable diseases are cardiovascular problems, such as heart attack or stroke (it should be noted that not all noncommunicable diseases are preventable– diabetes, for instance, is a disease some people are born with, and also considered a noncommunicable disease).

Wondering how gums can play such a big role in disease?

It’s understandable that people often feel mystified by the importance of gum health– and oral health in general– in the overall health of your body. After all, gums aren’t pumping oxygenated blood to your head and keeping your brain alive, or breaking down the meal you just ate into the nutrients your body needs. But actually, your gums create a critical barrier that protects your teeth and the bones around them.

When gum disease starts, plague or bacteria and food particles get between the gum line and the tooth– breaking this barrier and starting inflammation. In the first stages of gum disease, gingivitis (meaning literally: inflamed gums), it looks like what it sounds like: red, swollen, sometimes bleeding gums. But it is reversable.

Periodontitis, the worsened stage of the disease, usually needs professional intervention. In this stage, the infection has damaged the tooth, the gum around it, and often the ligaments that hold the tooth in place. Large pockets may appear between the gum and the tooth, and often a tooth (or several) may need to be removed.

But– periodontitis is preventable

So what do you do? Floss! Sure, food particles can get stuck between your teeth and gums– that’s part of eating– but afterwards, floss and brush to clean away anything that could become a meal for bacteria! Regular dental habits like brushing, flossing, and timely dental check ups are all it takes to keep periodontitis away.

Lakewood, CO Family dentists at Advanced Family Dental takes pride in our preventative approach to dental care. Schedule your next appointment
today, and together we’ll keep your smile in the best health!

Photo Credit: World Bank Photo Collection via Compfight cc

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