Getting a Grip on Gum Disease

Why you need to brush, floss and educate yourself on oral health. 

Posted: 08/30/2013 12:19 PM EDT

Nearly 50 percent of American adults have some level of periodontal disease, according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is double the number of adults with the disease in a previous study.

Periodontal disease, or its more common name, gum disease, is one of the most common diseases of man. It is, says Donna Grant-Mills, D.D.S., department of diagnostic services chair at Howard University College of Dentistry, “a number of infections that impact the supporting tissues of the teeth—the bone, the ligaments that hold the teeth to the bone, as well as the gums. Though it can begin as early as adolescence, people older than 35—if they have tooth loss—a lot of it is due to periodontal infections that have not been managed or treated.”

The study results have meaning for overall health, too. Many studies show that periodontal disease is a complication of diabetes. Further research is ongoing to find a connection between gum disease and other health conditions, such as heart disease.

Here’s what else Dr. Grant-Mills tells us about periodontal disease:

BHM: What causes gum disease? What are the symptoms?

DGM: The primary cause of it is specific bacteria contained in plaque that adheres to tooth surfaces, to restorations, dental appliances as well as dentures and partials. We now refer to plaque as biofilm.

Gingivitis is specifically inflammation of the gum, changes in the contour and color of the gum. Someone with gingivitis usually has plaque presence around the gum line of the teeth.

Diseases of the oral cavity can be hard tissue infection, such as tooth decay, or gum disease, such as gingivitis. Left untreated, gingivitis becomes periodontitis, a more severe form of gum disease.

Read more about keeping your gums healthy at BlackHealthMatters.com.

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(Photo: Getty Images/Tetra images RF)

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