Have you ever seen pictures of late-stage periodontal disease? If you have, you may associate the disease with dead and dying gums, lost teeth, and damage to the jaw bone. Periodontal disease is scary if it’s allowed to advance. But it the earliest stages of the disease, you can reverse the disease process, heal your gums, and keep your teeth. Catch the disease before it does irreversible damage, and you can make a positive change. But what is the earliest stage of periodontal disease, and how do you know when to get help?
Gingivitis is Real
If you’ve seen a lot of ads for dental products, you’ve probably heard the word gingivitis. Manufacturers of toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, and floss all mention that their products prevent gingivitis. This isn’t just to scare you into proper hygiene. Gingivitis is the earliest stage of periodontal disease. If you can treat it, you can prevent future pain, embarrassment, and medical complications from gum disease.
According to the CDC, 47.2% of American adults have some form of gum disease. As people age, they’re more at risk, with 70.1% of senior citizens suffering from the condition. In its earliest stages, gum disease means swollen and bleeding gums, sometimes without any pain. This is because your gums have become inflamed and infected by the bacteria in your mouth, the same bacteria that cause plaque. When you remove or prevent plaque by brushing, flossing, using mouth rinses, eating healthy foods, and seeing your dentist regularly, you can prevent or reverse gingivitis.
If you allow your gingivitis to go untreated, it will advance to early periodontitis. In this stage of the disease, plaque grows below your gumline. Your body senses the infection and the immune system responds. However, this can often result in chronic inflammation, which in turn can trigger an autoimmune reaction. Your body will turn on its own tissue and bone, and begin to destroy your gums and jaws. Eventually, the gums detach from the teeth and the jaw bones degrade. Your teeth are no longer held securely. They become loose, and then you lose them.
Lifestyle, genetic, and whole-body health factors can affect the chances that your gingivitis will become full-blown periodontitis. The elderly, pregnant women, and people with underlying diseases like diabetes, heart disease, or lung disease are more likely to see their gum disease progress. People suffering from malnutrition, who don’t eat a balanced diet, or who lack access to good dental care are also more likely to see the disease progress and lose teeth. Stress can make autoimmune issues work, so people in high-stress environments need to pay extra attention to their tooth and gum health.
Necrotizing periodontal disease is the most severe form of the disease and results in tissue death. It’s most common in people whose bodies don’t have a healthy immune system, for instance, people with HIV, people taking immunosuppressant drugs, and people suffering from malnutrition.
Gum disease is frightening, but you have the power to catch it in its early stages, reverse the disease process, and keep your teeth. Visit your dentist twice a year. If you notice that your gums are getting red and swollen or that they bleed when you brush or floss, take steps to fight the infection. Get plenty of sleep, drink water, and add an antibacterial rinse like CariFree’s CTx4 Treatment Rinse to your daily care routine.
Your teeth and gums are essential to living a long, healthy life with confidence. Gum disease can sneak up on you, especially when you’re stressed, sick, or tired, but you can fight back. Stay alert, be on the lookout for the earliest stages of gum disease, and talk to your dentist about proper oral hygiene.