Gum disease is the most prevalent dental problem that occurs among adults, including, in my experience, Canadian Filipinos.
However, it can also begin at an early age. According to the Canadian Dental Association “seven out of ten Canadians will develop gum disease at some time in their lives.”
Here are 10 things you should be aware of about gum disease:
1. Gum disease is caused by plaque - a soft, sticky, whitish biofilm containing communities of disease causing bacteria. Plaque attaches around teeth at and below the visible edge of the gums.
2. Plaque can be removed by brushing and flossing.
3. If plaque is not removed daily it becomes hard within 24 - 48 hours. This is called Tartar or Calcular deposits.
4. Tartar cannot be removed by brushing and flossing alone. Your dentist or dental hygienist can dislodge the attached Tartar from your teeth by scaling (that is, removing Tartar above the gums), or root planing (removing Tartar below the gums).
5. The early stage of gum disease shows inflamed (or swollen) and bleeding gums. This is called Gingivitis.
6. Gum disease is preventable. At its early stage, not only can it be treated, it can even be reversed.
7. Gum disease can progress painlessly, that is why by the time it gets noticed, a more serious problem has occurred.
8. If gum disease is not treated at its early stage, it will progress and affect the bone and gum tissue that holds the teeth in place. This advanced stage is called Periodontitis. There has been significant research supporting the relationship between Periodontal disease and systemic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, adverse pregnancy outcomes, and osteoporosis.
9. If gum disease is at its advanced stage and does not get better with routine dental care, your general dentist may refer you to a dental specialist called Periodontist.
10. A Periodontist has three years of extra university training in treating gum disease, including restoring or regenerating bone and gum tissue that has been lost due to gum disease.
Gum disease is hard to see at its very early stage. The good news is that every time you have your regular dental exam, your dentist looks for signs of gum disease.
The best way to handle gum disease is not to have it in the first place. To protect your oral health, brush your teeth twice daily, floss at least once a day, and see your dentist regularly.