February is Gum Disease Awareness Month! Initially launched by the Institute for Advanced  Laser Dentistry, its purpose is to raise awareness about gum disease and encourage healthy  dental habits to prevent it. 

What is gum disease? 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gum disease, also referred to as  periodontitis or periodontal disease, is the result of infections and inflammation of the gums and  bone that surround and support the teeth. In the early stages, the gums can become swollen  and red, and they may bleed. As it progresses, the gums can pull away from the tooth, which  can eventually result in bone and tooth loss. To diagnose gum disease, your dentist and  hygienist perform a thorough assessment to classify the severity and extent of bone loss.  Bleeding, overall health status and risk factors are also considered. Not only does gum disease  affect your mouth, it can affect your body as well.  

Symptoms 

Common symptoms of gum disease to watch out for include: 

● Swollen or puffy gums. 

● Bright red, dusky red or purplish gums. 

● Gums that feel tender when touched. 

● Gums that bleed easily. 

● Pink-tinged toothbrush after brushing. 

● Painful chewing. 

How is gum disease treated? 

When enough bacteria from plaque and tartar builds up and causes gum disease, a deep  cleaning may be recommended. This is a special type of cleaning where plaque and tartar are  removed from between your teeth and gums and the roots of your teeth. A deep cleaning is  generally recommended to treat active infection that can affect the bone and gums that support  your teeth. Deep cleanings are usually needed more often than preventative cleanings to help  treat gum disease. 

How can gum disease affect your body? 

While gum disease starts in the mouth, when left untreated, it can start affecting many other  parts of the body as well. This includes respiratory disease, rheumatoid arthritis, coronary  artery disease and diabetes. 

Risk Factors 

Periodontal disease is mostly seen in adults, with 47.2% of those aged 30 years and older  having some form of it. This risk only increases with age. On top of age, there are many other 

risk factors that can increase your chance of developing gum disease. One of the primary risk  factors is smoking, followed by poor oral hygiene, diabetes, stress, hormonal changes and  medications that cause dry mouth. 

How can gum disease be prevented? 

Thankfully, preventing gum disease is possible with proper oral health habits that stop the  spread of bacteria in your mouth. “The best prevention for gum disease is brushing two times a  day and flossing daily,” explains Kristin Winslow, a registered dental hygienist with Stonehaven  Dental. “Visiting the dentist every six months also allows us to screen for early signs of infection.  When gum disease is caught early, it’s easier to treat and outcomes are much better.”  

If you’re experiencing symptoms of gum disease, schedule an appointment with your dentist to  get it checked out.