Gum Disease: Facts and Myths

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost half of adults over the age of 30 have gum disease. Recently, Alex Rodriguez shared that he has been diagnosed with the early stages of it. Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss and is also risk factor for heart and lung diseases. While gum disease tends to be a chronic condition, it is treatable and even preventable. Keep reading to find out the facts and myths about gum disease.

What is gum disease?

Gum disease, also called periodontal disease or periodontitis by dental professionals, refers to the inflammation and infection of the tissues that support teeth. Symptoms can include bad odor from mouth, swollen, red and bleeding gums. Since there is usually no pain associated with gum disease, many people are not aware they are afflicted with it. Note that gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums, can progress to gum disease if left untreated.

What causes gum disease?

The most common cause is usually poor oral hygiene, which allows plaque to build up on the teeth and cause an infection. Dental plaque that is not removed with proper oral care hardens to form tartar, a buildup that harbors bacteria that causes gum disease.

Other risk factors include genetics, hormonal changes (such as during pregnancy), and existing conditions such as diabetes. Tobacco use, including cigarettes and vaping, can worsen gum disease. Moreover, tobacco use can make the treatment of gum disease unsuccessful.

What are some myths about gum disease?

  1. Myth: Only adults get gum disease. Fact: While it is more common in adults, gum disease can occur at any age. Gum disease in children is called juvenile periodontitis.
  2. Myth: Gum disease is more prevalent in Latinos. Fact: Gum disease occurs among all ethnicities, but has been to be higher in African Americans.
  3. Myth: Eating sunflower seeds can lead to gum disease (this was a question raised during the interview with Alex Rodriguez). Fact: No such association is found.

How can gum disease be treated?

If the gum disease has progressed to cause bone or tooth loss, it is not curable. However, it is manageable with appropriate treatment. Treatment includes professionally cleaning, known as a deep cleaning, to remove the tartar in the pockets around teeth to prevent damage to surrounding bone. Advanced cases may require surgery by a periodontist. There are other treatment options for more advanced cases, such as involving grafting and laser treatment.

Since gum disease is caused by a bacteria, it can be contagious through saliva. Repeated and long-term contact through saliva (such as kissing) may increase your risk for periodontal disease.

Please share this article with your friends and family. Contact your dentist for additional information.

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