Left to its own devices, gum disease can lead to serious oral health issues
SUMMARY: Dentists often have trouble convincing patients to worry about gum disease - unless, of course, those folks have already developed periodontitis...
Posted: June 7, 2012
When was the last time your doctor talked to you about gum disease? Did you by any chance have gum pains or swelling, dental plaque or bad breath? If so, and your dentist told you to beware of gingivitis, then he or she was also implicitly warning you against getting periodontal disease, a serious infection that can cause multiple health problems.
Just ask Vancouver resident Eileen Kirby. She told the Vancouver Sun that periodontitis, which she endured for 35 straight years, wrought havoc in her mouth.
Then and now
"I started having problems back in my twenties and I’m 60 now," she told the newspaper. "I did brush my teeth, but in those days when you were on welfare, they wouldn’t send you to the dentist unless you had to have a tooth pulled. Things had to get pretty bad before they’d do anything."
And things did get quite bad for Kirby. She recalled having serious dental pain, swelling, soreness, bleeding, dental looseness and even tooth loss.
However, after suffering for decades, she finally turned her oral health around. Kirby now gets regular dental checkups, has her teeth cleaned often and is even a volunteer at a dental clinic in her hometown.
But how did her oral health issues get started? The same way that many people's do: with little more than bad breath and some gum disease.
Gingivitis spreads, and deepens, and then...
Gum disease may seem pretty innocuous. After all, it's hardly anything more than a mild to moderate gum infection, right? Well, yes and no. On the one hand, gingivitis is a condition characterized by red, inflamed gums, oral pain and halitosis. On the other hand, it can be considered the precursor to periodontal disease, a much more serious problem.
If left untreated (as in Kirby's case), gingivitis can spread beyond the gums. The bacteria that cause inflammation and odor gradually work their way down the tooth roots, all the while eating away at the enamel.
When they get to the bone bed, these microbes start loosening the tooth's foundation. At the same time, periodontal bacteria further inflame the gums, causing them to turn purple and pull away from the teeth.
The result is an awful mess and often involves tooth loss.
Rather than letting things get out of hand this way, do what Kirby did: See a dentist. And while you're at it, rinse with a specialty periotherapy mouthwash, brush more often and force yourself to floss regularly.
Remember - Prevention is the best medicine.