It’s now estimated that 70 percent of the U.S. population suffers from some form of gum disease, including the early stages of gum disease known as gingivitis. Gingivitis is categorized by redness and swelling of the gums around the edges of your teeth. This area of the gums is known as the "gingiva."
Though gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease, it is not without its risks. Studies have shown that babies born to mothers with gingivitis often suffer from low birth weight and have a higher risk of being born prematurely than those whose mothers do not have gingivitis.
Thankfully, gingivitis is completely reversible, but ignoring it can have serious repercussions for your overall health. Gingivitis is caused by poor oral health habits, including not brushing twice a day for at least two minutes a day and not flossing at least once a day. The good news is that when patients improve their oral health habits, they can usually cure their gingivitis – and keep it away, as long as they maintain their oral care routine.
Left untreated, gingivitis can turn into periodontitis, or periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is considered advanced-stage gum disease. Periodontitis attacks the gum tissue and surrounding bone and can cause everything from infected gums to bone and tooth loss. If left untreated, periodontitis can even contribute to diabetes, heart disease, stroke and even some forms of cancer.
Periodontitis can be cured, but often requires antibiotics as well as painful procedures like root scaling and planing and gum and bone grafts. You may also end up requiring teeth to be pulled or even losing portions of bone or tissue from your jaw.
Another form of gingivitis that you may not be aware of is pregnancy gingivitis. Just as it sounds, pregnancy gingivitis affects pregnant women, but unlike regular gingivitis, pregnancy gingivitis is caused by hormones. In fact, even women with excellent oral hygiene can get pregnancy gingivitis. Thankfully this inflammation usually clears up after the pregnancy is over and the body’s hormones return to normal. Most patients with pregnancy gingivitis require no treatment but are advised to brush more gently than usual to minimize bleeding gums.
Thankfully, pregnancy gingivitis does not seem to carry the same risks as regular gingivitis when it comes to low birth weight and premature birth.
Spreading Gum Disease
Though gum disease is caused by poor oral health, it is possible to spread the infection to other people by sharing toothbrushes, cups or utensils. This is unfortunately very common in families, especially with parents and young children. If you believe you have any stage of gum disease, be careful not to share any of these implements with your family, as you could be passing the bacteria responsible for these illnesses along to them without realizing it!
Preventing and Curing Gum Disease
If you suspect you may have any stage of gum disease, it's important to be seen by your dentist as soon as possible so that your gums can be treated if necessary. This can help minimize the damage caused by the infection and prevent it from developing into a more serious problem.
Preventing gum disease is easy. Make sure you brush at least twice a day, floss at least once a day, and see your dentist at least twice a year for a cleaning. If you have any further questions or concerns about your oral health or gum disease, please give Dr. Hill’s office a call at 469-640-9550.