Did you know over 47% of Americans over the age of 30 currently suffer from some form of gum disease? This equals to approximately 64.7 million Americans.
Gum disease, also known as gingivitis or periodontitis, is an inflammatory disease that affects the gum structure in the mouth. Gingivitis is the earliest stage where the gums become swollen, red and inflamed – the body’s natural response to harmful bacteria. Periodontitis, the more serious stage of disease, can cause the gums to recede from the teeth, loss of supportive gum tissues and even loss of teeth.
The symptoms are often subtle and can progress without any warning signs. Sometimes the disease will only affect certain teeth, such as the molars. Only a dentist can recognize and treat gum disease, but keep an eye out for these symptoms:
- Bleeding gums during or after brushing your teeth
- Red, swollen or tender gums
- Tooth pain or sensitivity
- Receding gums
- Persistent bad breath
- Loose or shifting teeth
Gum disease can also be a result of an unhealthy lifestyle. A variety of factors can influence the risk of infection, including:
- Smoking. Smokers are seven times more likely to develop gum disease than non-smokers.
- Stress. Excessive stress can lower the body’s immune system and increase the risk of infection.
- Diet. Maintain a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants, vitamin C and vitamin E, such as leafy greens, citrus, broccoli and potatoes. A well-balanced diet can help repair damaged tissue and ward off infection.
The good news: gum disease is easily preventable. Proper plaque control is key to a healthy mouth. Most dentists recommend at least two professional cleanings a year, daily flossing and brushing two or more times a day. Flossing removes plaque from hard to reach areas such as the gums and in between teeth, while brushing eliminates plaque from the surface of the teeth. Also, a quick rinse with antibacterial mouthwash can prevent the bacteria that cause plaque from growing.
So maybe you already practice proper hygiene and live a healthy lifestyle, but still show signs of gum disease? According to the American Academy of Periodontology, 30% of Americans are generally susceptible to gum disease due to genetics. If anyone in your family has gum disease, you have a greater risk of developing it as well. Be sure to tell your dentist if you have a family history of gum disease, gingivitis or periodontitis. He or she will likely recommend you schedule more frequent cleanings and check-ups to prevent infection.