Gum disease is a common issue, affecting the majority of adults over age 35, but despite its prevalence, the gums almost always take a backseat to the teeth when discussing oral health. Unfortunately, failure to properly address gum health problems can cause other serious oral health problems, ranging from loose or shifting teeth to bleeding, pain, and bad breath. Over time, gum disease can even impact the integrity of the jaw bone. That’s why, if you’re serious about your oral health, you need to focus on your gums. Here’s what’ exactly is at stake.
It Starts As Inflammation
As with so many health problems, gum disease typically manifests as inflammation before the symptoms get worse. When brushing your teeth, this may manifest as redness and bleeding, but it often isn’t painful. This is one of the major problems with gingivitis – because it doesn’t necessarily cause discomfort, people overlook the issue until it’s already quite advanced. Regularly brushing and flossing, however, can help minimize gum disease and keep more serious gum issues at bay.
Then Your Gums Recede
If you ignore the early signs of gingivitis, like inflammation, the issue can progress to include gum recession, in which the gums pull away from the teeth – and it’s important to recognize that receding gums are much more than an aesthetic problem. Rather, when the tissues pull away from the tooth itself, they form pockets where debris and bacteria can collect, leading to more inflammation. It’s a circular process, but one thing you can do to slow down the damage is to undergo treatment for your receding gums.
One way to treat gum recession is through pinhole surgery, a minimally invasive approach to restoring the gum line, and works without any incisions or sutures, making it preferable to the traditional grafting process. Most importantly, by repositioning the gum line, the procedure can prevent your teeth from loosening or shifting. And, by addressing the root cause of the problem, you can avoid more aggressive treatments later on, such as the need for braces or aligners to address teeth that have moved out of position.
Many people don’t realize that oral health is closely linked to much larger health trends, so when they ignore gum disease or a cavity, they assume the problem is limited to their mouths. Unfortunately, because of the nature of our circulatory system, oral health problems are actually a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Though doctors are still working out the big picture, many believe that bacteria from gum infections can cause inflammation elsewhere in the body, leading to hardened arteries and even intracranial atherosclerosis. In other words, not brushing your teeth enough could cause a stroke – and you’re not likely to see that coming.
Gum health may seem like a relatively small issue, especially when other problems seem more acute. Unfortunately, that means many people are living with chronic, low-level infections, something they wouldn’t tolerate if it was happening elsewhere in the body. It’s time to prioritize oral health in the same ways that we do other major health issues. Your gums are canaries in the coal mine, signaling systemic issues that you need to address.