Periodontitis Gum Disease A Troubling U.S. Health Epidemic

gum disease vs healthy gums

Half Of America’s Population Fighting Periodontitis, Most Without Knowing It

If you don’t have periodontitis, statistics say your spouse does. If your mom doesn’t have periodontitis, chances are 50-50 your dad does.

The cold hard statistics of this U.S. health epidemic are half of Americans age 30 or older have periodonitis, the advanced form of gum disease, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control statistics. That equals 64.7 million Americans feeling major pain in their gums. Gum disease’s most dangerous statistic: Most Americans don’t even know they have it.

In two words, periodontitis is bad news for gums. This inflammatory disease affects the soft and hard structures that support the teeth. Gum disease starts as gingivitis, where gums become swollen and red due to inflammation – the body’s natural response to the presence of harmful bacteria.

When gingivitis worsens to periodontitis, the gums pull away from the tooth and supporting gum tissue is destroyed. Bone can be lost, and teeth may loosen and ultimately fall out.

Periodontitis’ worst case scenario is chronic periodontitis, which worsens in adulthood and advances due to risk factors including diet, health history and medication. The hurt doesn’t stop with bleeding gums. Dentists warn gum disease can have a devastating impact on patients’ general health and well-being.

A 2018 study by the University of Bristol’s Bristol Dental School found an alarming 10 percent of the global population – 743 million people – are affected by severe gum disease. Chronic periodontitis leads to increased mortality rates, increased risks of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and related complications.

“Any type of chronic inflammation in the body triggers immune system responses, which can cause heart diseases, cancer, intestinal issues, low birth-weight babies (and more),” Dr. Mark Wilson told Preventing Gum Disease.com, a non-profit public awareness website on the warning signs and dangers of gum disease. “It seems like every few months a new association between gum disease and other illnesses comes up. It affects probably everything in the body.”

An especially troubling case in point to back up Dr. Wilson’s point: Untreated gum disease may be linked to oral cancer, according to new research by Fighting Gum Disease.com.

“The burden of these diseases is high and is increasing as the population ages,” Professor Nicola West, who compiled the Bristol Dental School’s study’s findings, told Medical Press. “Both tooth decay and gum disease can lead to nutritional compromise and negative impact on self esteem and quality of life.

“These findings help underline to dental professionals and the public the importance of oral health and that it is often an indicator of general health issues.”

The biggest factor leading to the worsening of this American health epidemic? Unawareness. Most people assume if their gums aren’t hurting, they’re fine.

“Unfortunately, only about 3 percent of those with moderate to severe gum disease,” Dr. Robert Gregg Jr., told FGD.

How can you know if you are the 1 in 2 Americans battling gum disease, and how you can reduce your risk of developing chronic periodontitis?

Recognize The Signs

  • Red, swollen or tender gums
  • Bleeding while brushing and flossing
  • Pus or drainage from gums
  • Receding gums, causing the teeth to look longer or become more sensitive
  • Loose teeth or increased spacing between them
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Teeth that no longer mesh together evenly when you chew

How To Fight Back Against Gum Disease

  1. Remember, bleeding gums are not normal. Contact your dentist immediately if you experience bleeding gums when brushing.
  2. Reduce sugar and starch intake levels and frequency and cancel all sugar snack times. This is the No. 1 factor in reducing your chances of developing advanced gum disease.
  3. The Twice-a-Day, Two-Minute Brushing Rule is super agent in keeping gum disease at bay.
  4. Floss Once-a-Day.  Like anything, repetition is the key.  A full day flossing routine should include cleaning below the gum line, where dental plaque can go unseen and unreached by toothbrushes.

The statistics are frightening, and so are the potential overall health costs of untreated gum disease. But awareness, prevention and treatment can keep your gums healthy, happy and smiling with a bright future.

“I want patients to know gum disease is not normal,” Dr. EJ Traynor told FGD. “Gum disease doesn’t hurt, so unless you have signs and symptoms like bleeding, you won’t know you have it. I want the public to know prevention is everything. You want to make sure that you get down to the root of the problem before it manifests into damage to the bone, damage to the gums, and turns into your natural teeth becoming loose.

“It’s important to understand this disease can change (your) life in a negative way if not treated.”

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