Think you’re immune to gum disease? More than 75 percent of Canadians over the age of 35 have some form of gum disease, also known as periodontal disease. In fact, more than $10 billion is spent each year replacing teeth sacrificed to gum disease – the main cause of tooth loss in adults.
The mildest form of gum disease is gingivitis. Affecting the gum and tissues that support your teeth, this bacterial infection doesn’t hurt and has very few symptoms other then red, swollen gums that bleed easily.
Luckily, gingivitis is easily reversible with treatment from your dentist and good oral home care. If left untreated, it can become more severe and lead to all sorts of unpleasant complications, including tooth loss, respiratory disease, heart disease and low birth-weight babies.
How does gum disease happen? If you don’t remove plaque — that sticky, colourless film that forms on your teeth each day — by brushing and flossing, it hardens into something called calculus, or tartar. This calculus builds up under your gums, increasing your risk of gum disease.
The bacteria in plaque also produce toxins that irritate the gums and cause them to pull away from the teeth. This results in periodontal pockets, which fill up with toxins and bacteria, ultimately destroying the bone that holds the tooth in place. If left untreated, the effected teeth will become loose, eventually falling out or needing to be removed.
The Warning Signs:
- bleeding gums while brushing;
- red, swollen or tender gums;
- gums that pull away from the teeth;
- bad breath that won’t go away;
- pus between the teeth and gums (leaving a bad taste);
- loose or separating teeth;
- changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite; and
- changes in the fit of partial dentures.
Fortunately, gum disease is preventable. Make sure you brush and floss properly each day, and get regular check-ups by your dentist. During your exam, the dentist, or dental hygienist, will inspect your gums, making it easier to catch it in the early stages, and will remove plaque and calculus in areas that may lead to gum disease.
Save your teeth and your smile. See your dentist today if you have the slightest suspicion you may be suffering from gum disease.