Gums are your body’s first wall of defense. Gum tissue protects your body from bacteria by forming a seal against your teeth. They also help the bone to anchor your teeth firmly in place to aid in chewing. When not kept healthy, bacteria accumulates leading to chronic infections called gingivitis and periodontitis (gum disease). According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over 50% of Americans have some form of gum disease. Some forms of periodontitis can even affect younger patients.When untreated, gum disease continually destroys the gums and bone supporting your teeth, eventually leading to tooth loss. In fact, periodontitis is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults!
Even though periodontitis affects more than half the adult population, it is a painless or “silent” process, so patients often do not know they have the disease. In the early stages of the disease process bacteria accumulate on the teeth. This creates inflammation of the gums called “gingivitis.” Gingivitis causes the gums to become red, swollen, and bleed easily. There is usually little or no discomfort at this stage. Gingivitis is often caused by inadequate oral hygiene. Gingivitis is reversible with professional treatment and good oral home care.
Untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis. With time, plaque can spread and grow below the gum line. Toxins produced by the bacteria in plaque irritate the gums. The toxins stimulate a chronic inflammatory response in which the body in essence turns on itself and the tissues and bone that support the teeth are broken down and destroyed. Gums separate from the teeth, forming pockets (spaces between the teeth and gums) that become infected. As the disease progresses, the pockets deepen and more gum tissue and bone are destroyed. Often, this destructive process has very mild symptoms. Eventually, teeth can become loose and may have to be removed.
Did you know that everyone has millions of bacteria in their mouths but not everyone gets periodontal disease? Why does this happen? The answer is “susceptibility.” Only certain people have the immune dysfunction that allows the inflammatory exaggeration that leads to bone loss. However, certain behaviors and medical conditions can contribute to periodontal disease susceptibility: poor oral hygiene, smoking, diabetes, and stress.
Although gum disease affects more than half of the adult population, those affected often do not know they have the disease because it is usually a painless or silent process. This means that you may have gum disease and not even know it until it’s too late to treat!
Fortunately, periodontitis is treatable and manageable by periodontists such as Dr. Kuznia and Dr. Storch. Using a small measuring device to gently measure the gums around the teeth along with specialized digital radioagraphy, Dr. Kuznia and Dr. Storch can accurately diagnose periodontal diseases and prescribe to manage your condition. Call today to set up your exam with Dr. Kuznia and Dr. Storch!