With so much focus on the health of our teeth, gum health seems to be one of the most understated facets of oral health. Everyone is constantly bombarded with commercials and information telling us to brush our teeth, get them whiter, and keep them cleaner, but we often forget about the thing that holds them firmly in place and protects them. The truth is, in order to have healthy teeth, and good health overall, it is crucial to have healthy gums. In fact, gum disease not only has detrimental effects on your oral health, but can affect multiple systems in your body in addition to just your mouth.
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is caused by the presence of bacteria in the mouth in areas where it can congregate and accumulate. Gum disease most commonly occurs around and below the gum line due to a buildup of plaque and bacteria where the teeth meet the gums. This buildup causes irritation and inflammation in the gums, triggering an immune response from the body.
The mildest form of gum disease is known as gingivitis, which can progress to a more severe form known as periodontitis if left unchecked. Periodontitis can actually break down the connection between the teeth and the gums.
Approximately 47% of adults in the United States have some form of gum disease, with over 70% of adults over 65 years old being affected.
How Gum Disease Affects Your Body
The oral symptoms of gum disease include bad breath, swollen gums, loose or sensitive teeth, receding gums, tender or bleeding gums, and painful chewing. When left untreated, gum disease can even lead to the loss of teeth. However, gum disease can also have a major impact on other body systems that can lead to serious health issues such as pneumonia, COPD, and acute bronchitis. Since gum disease is an infection that the body must dedicate resources to fight, its ability to fight other infections such as the aforementioned respiratory infections, is compromised.
While not a direct cause, there are many common factors between gum disease and heart disease, including genetics, age, smoking habits, presence of diabetes, and more.
According to recent studies, it takes two to three months longer for women with active gum disease to conceive compared to women without gum disease. Fertility specialists actually often require women to show that they do not have gum disease or are taking steps necessary to treat it if they do have it.
Gum disease during pregnancy must be monitored closely and treated properly. With nearly 40% of pregnant women developing gum disease at some point during their pregnancy, it is a common issue with potential side effects; pregnant women with active gum disease have an increased chance to deliver prematurely or have babies with lower than average birth weight.
Want to make sure your gum health is up to par? Allegiance Dental Associates delivers the kind of gentle, trusting care you want for you and your baby so you can spend less time worrying and more time on the things that matter. Contact us today to set up an appointment.