Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is an infection of the soft tissues that surround the teeth. Unlike many diseases of the body, which can present symptoms before they get too advanced, gum disease is usually painless and silently becomes more serious before you have any idea it’s there. This is why it is important to be informed of the disease and how it can sneak up on you.
One of the main reasons why early gum disease, or gingivitis, is able to gain such a foothold in a patient is that it tends to develop slowly with little to no pain. Symptoms are so mild that many people are not even aware that the plaque buildup in their mouths is higher than normal. Bleeding gums, persistent bad breath (or a bad taste in the mouth), gums pulling away from the teeth, and soreness of the gums are all signs of gum disease that are easily overlooked. As it progresses, symptoms become more pronounced. If it is not addressed promptly, it could lead to other symptoms of the full-blown periodontal disease or even tooth loss.
Besides not being informed of the symptoms, many people do not know that gum disease can be a threat to their health. Even people with an active case of the disease may not be aware that it has been linked to high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, uncontrolled diabetes, and even dementia. This is because the bacteria that live in the mouth – that cause tooth decay – can easily migrate to other body systems. If this happens, they can cause serious damage to organs and tissues, such as the heart and blood vessels.
The best way to prevent periodontal disease and allowing it to lead to other health issues is to eat a healthy diet low in sugary foods, brush and floss regularly after meals and snacks, and keep up with regular dental checkups and cleanings.