Despite the fact that periodontal disease is extremely common, there is a lot of confusion and misinformation out there about how gum disease begins and how it’s treated. Periodontal disease develops gradually, and most people don’t know they have it until it becomes very serious, because symptoms may seem mild for a long time. Unfortunately, it can have serious consequences for the 50% of American adults who develop the condition by age 30. The big question remains, however: How does periodontal disease develop? Is it transmitted? Read on to learn the truth.
Is it “Contagious”?
Periodontal disease develops when harmful bacteria are able to develop under the gum line, flourishing in plaque and tartar that build up on the teeth. Over time, “pockets” under the gums develop, which can cause all kinds of health issue. The gums react to this bacteria by becoming red, inflamed, and sensitive.
Gum disease is mostly caused by oral hygiene issues, or hormonal changes, which change the natural bacteria content in the mouth. Technically, the condition isn’t considered contagious, but the bacteria that cause gum disease can certainly be spread through saliva contact. That means if you’re kissing, sharing drinks, or sharing silverware, there is a risk of passing on (or receiving) harmful bacteria that could flourish and turn into gum disease. This takes a great deal of repeated exposure, but it can happen, especially since families often share food.
It’s best to avoid sharing silverware or food among family members if one person is showing signs of periodontal disease (such as swollen, red gums, bleeding when brushing, or excessive bad breath), and get a dental exam right away so treatment can begin if necessary.
Risk Factors for Gum Disease
While many, many people develop gum disease, there are some risk factors that make it more likely. Older people are much more likely to develop gum disease, making regular checkups even more important later in life. Genetics also have an impact on the bacteria that develops in the mouth, and clenching or grinding your teeth can be a risk factor for gum disease. Finally, smokers and women who are pregnant or menopausal should be especially careful about oral hygiene, as these individuals are more likely to have issues with periodontal disease.
Associated Health Problems
Periodontal disease is serious and can lead to serious health problems. Bacteria can easily enter the bloodstream via the gums, causing a whole host of problems. Besides loose or missing teeth, receding gums, and even bone loss, gum disease can lead to other conditions. Diabetes and heart disease are just two of the dangerous conditions that can be influenced by oral bacteria. That’s why it’s so important to try to prevent periodontal disease and seek treatment when necessary.
The best prevention is simple: flossing and brushing every day (using the right techniques) and visiting a dentist every six months for cleaning and a checkup. While periodontal disease is very common, it is possible to prevent the problem by being diligent about your oral health.
If you’re noticing signs of gingivitis and gum disease, like bleeding when you brush or floss, it’s time to head to the dentist. Don’t worry, early signs of gum disease are fairly easy to treat, and catching the problem early will help ensure the success of the treatment.
Early treatment involves deep cleanings that usually require only local anesthetic. Once these cleanings are complete, many people can go back to their normal dental schedule. However, more advanced periodontal disease may require deep cleanings and additional treatments, like gum or bone surgery, or laser treatments. Your dentist will explain all of the treatment options during your appointment.
Choosing a Specialist
Because periodontal disease can become very dangerous to your health, it’s a good idea to seek the help and advice of a specialist. A periodontal specialist, like Drs. Gallardo and Lamas in Miami, offer the latest in gum disease treatments, including surgical treatment, implants, and deep cleanings. Call 305-547-8687 today to schedule your appointment with our experts.