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Gum disease can have far-reaching effects on your oral health and appearance. However, many individuals develop the condition without knowing it and the initial warning signs such as gum-tissue inflammation and occasional bleeding are ignored. Even if you have these symptoms, don’t give up! When caught early, gum disease can be prevented, and the damage repaired.
Gum disease starts with the formation of plaque on the gums and teeth. Plaque that is allowed to build up over time will irritate the gums. This stage of gum disease is called gingivitis, and its symptoms may be minimal at first but will eventually emerge if not treated.
Once you progress past gingivitis, your periodontal disease becomes a chronic condition that requires continuous management. Unremoved plaque eventually hardens into tartar, which pushes the gums away from the tooth roots and creates periodontal pockets that collect bacteria. Without treatment, these oral bacteria will progressively destroy your gum tissues and the bone that supports the teeth, the result of which is tooth loss.
In addition to the debilitating effects on your dental health, researchers have also found a significant connection between periodontal infection and other severe health conditions. Experts suspect that this link stems from the fact that periodontal disease is an active bacterial contagion that can and will inevitably spread. Individuals with advanced gum disease are also at a higher risk of developing the following conditions:
Coronary Artery Disease: The toxic irritants found in periodontal bacteria can reach the arteries by traveling throughout your bloodstream. This can cause inflammation in the arteries as well, creating a blockage, increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke.
Diabetes: Diabetes and gum disease often go hand and hand, possibly because diabetes interferes with the body’s immune system. As your natural defenses try to eliminate the infection, blood sugar levels are disrupted, making diabetes challenging to control.
Pregnancy Problems: Pregnancy has a bidirectional relationship with periodontal disease in that the hormones prevalent during pregnancy can put women at risk for gum inflammation and, eventually, periodontal disease. Also, periodontal disease during pregnancy is often present in women who have delivered prematurely or given birth to underweight babies.
If you do not currently have gum disease, prevention is simple. Take a proactive approach to your at-home oral hygiene routine and visit your trusted dental professional every six months to maintain a healthy, long-lasting smile.