Published: September 10, 2018

How much do you know about gum disease? You may not think much about your gums, but understanding gum disease, also called periodontal disease, can save you from some pretty serious consequences. In fact, preventing gum disease may save you not only from losing your teeth but also from major health problems.

What is periodontal disease? It’s a condition that occurs when bacteria found in plaque builds up between the gums and the teeth. Plaque is a sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth, binding bacteria to your teeth. Left on your teeth, plaque can break down your enamel and cause tooth decay. When plaque builds up, it can cause a condition called gingivitis, which makes the gums bleed. When the bacteria causing the inflammation in your gums travels to your bloodstream, it can affect the health of your entire body.

  • 75 percent of adult tooth loss is the result of gum disease. Untreated inflammation can cause the gums and bones that support your teeth to deteriorate. Your gums will begin to recede, and you may lose your teeth.
  • Periodontal disease can increase your risk of heart trouble. People with gum disease are almost three times as likely to suffer a heart attack.
  • The risk of stroke is increased for sufferers of gum disease. The risk of stroke is three times more likely for those with periodontal disease.
  • Gum disease has been linked to pre-term childbirth. Women with unhealthy gums are seven to eight times more likely to have premature, low birth-weight babies.
  • Periodontal disease complicated diabetes. Because gum disease can raise blood sugar in patients with diabetes, periodontal treatment can often reduce the need for insulin.
  • Your risk of respiratory disease is increased by gum disease. The same bacteria that’s inflaming the gums can be breathed in and increase the severity of respiratory conditions like bronchitis, pneumonia, and emphysema.

It’s clear that periodontal disease is not just a dental issue, but rather a medical issue. If this all sounds pretty frightening, take heart! There are some concrete steps you can take to improve your gum health, and they’re not difficult to follow.

  • Brush your teeth thoroughly and regularly. Brush after meals, to remove the food and plaque on your teeth and trapped between your teeth and gums. Make sure to brush your tongue, too, because bacteria can also build up there.
  • Floss daily. When you floss at least once a day, you can get to plaque your toothbrush missed.
  • Use mouthwash. Swishing with mouthwash further reduces plaque, and gets the smallest particles missed by both brushing and flossing.
  • Understand your risk. If you’ve got a personal or familial history of heart trouble, stroke, premature childbirth, diabetes, or respiratory diseases, you’re at a higher risk for periodontal disease. Likewise, those with higher risk lifestyles are also at risk of gum disease. You have a higher risk lifestyle if you have chronic stress, you’re a smoker, your sedentary and overweight, or you have frequent colds and flus.
  • Get regular checkups. It’s important to see a dental professional annually, for a comprehensive periodontal evaluation that can help identify signs of gum disease early, protecting your teeth, gums, and overall health.

If you’re looking for a dentist in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, check out Smiles Family Dental. With doctors uniquely skilled and qualified to provide exceptional dental care, and a commitment to staying at the forefront of dentistry, we provide high-quality care tailored to meet our patients’ needs. From customized treatment plans to extended office hours, we are here to help in any way we can. If you’re in Arlington, Las Colinas, or Flower Mound, visit our website to learn more about all we have to offer.