By W. Scott Jordan, DDS and Kimberly DeSena, DMD

Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is an inflammatory process that affects the tissues and bone that support your teeth.  Since it is painless, it can be very destructive in a short period of time.  With routine dental cleaning appointments, your hygienist and dentist can diagnose this disease at its earliest stage, preventing treatment that is more extensive and expensive.

When your gums are healthy, your gum tissues tightly hug each of your teeth.  When you have gum disease, your gums pull away from your teeth.  As the gum disease gets worse, the tissues and bones that support your teeth are damaged.

Over time, your teeth may fall out or need to be removed.  Treating gum disease in the early stages is very important and can help prevent tooth loss.

GUM DISEASE AND WHOLE-BODY HEALTH

Gum disease has been linked to other diseases.  Gum disease is common among people with either diabetes or heart disease. Strokes and high stress may be related to gum disease.

ARE YOU AT RISK?

Anyone can get gum disease, but there are other things that can raise your risk of getting it.  These include:

  • Not taking care of your teeth and gums.  Be sure you brush at least two times a day, every day, for 2 minutes each time.  Clean between your teeth with floss at least once daily.
  • Using tobacco of any kind.  You are more likely to have gum disease if you smoke, chew or dip.
  • Diseases, such as diabetes and HIV infection, affect the whole body and lower your body’s resistance to infection, including gum disease.
  • Many medications, such as those to treat blood pressure or steroids, can affect your gums.  A common side effect is dry mouth.  This can increase your risk of tooth decay (caries) and gum disease.  Tell your dentist about all the medications you take and any changes in your health.
  • Genes may play a role.  If your parents wear dentures or you have a family history of tooth loss or gum disease, be extra alert for changes to your gums.

    WARNING SIGNS OF GUM DISEASE

  • Gums that bleed when you brush or floss
  • Gums that are red, swollen, tender or puffy
  • Gums that no longer tightly hug your teeth
  • Bad breath that doesn’t go away
  • Pus between your teeth or gums
  • Feeling that your teeth are loose
  • A change in the way your partial dentures fit
  • Developing spaces between your teeth or spaces that are getting wider

    You may notice one or some of these warning signs, or you may not have any signs of gum disease at all.This is why it is crucial to see your dentist regularly.  Even if you do not have dental insurance, routine maintenance is less costly than waiting until you get insurance and doing corrective treatment.  Treatment of gum disease is most successful when it is caught in its early stages.

Doctors Jordan and DeSena practice dentistry in Rutherfordton, NC.