understanding gum disease epidemic

Gum disease is reaching epidemic proportions throughout the country. Recent studies show that nearly 50% of people have some degree of gum disease– that’s over 64 million adults in the United States alone.

In today’s post, we’ll answer some of the most common questions patients at Timberhill Dental have about gum disease, as well as share some little-known facts about gum disease and how it can affect your whole body health.

Let’s get started.

What Exactly Is Gum Disease?

Perhaps the biggest danger when it comes to gum disease is a simple lack of information.

Most people are familiar with cavities but a surprising number of people don’t know anything at all about gum disease!

So, let’s answer the question: What is gum disease? Also known as periodontal disease, gum disease is an infection that affects gum tissue and other soft tissue in the mouth. Although, as we’ll talk about more in this post, gum disease can seriously damage your teeth and bones, too.


Mild gum disease is called “gingivitis”. Advanced gum disease is known as “periodontitis.”

Gum disease begins with plaque buildup on the teeth. As this plaque hardens, it turns into bacteria-filled tartar below the gumline and causes inflammation in the gums and surrounding tissue. Left untreated, gum tissue can eventually recede, leaving bacteria-filled pockets of infection that can damage the jawbone itself.

The Dental Health Dangers of Gum Disease

When it comes to your dental health, untreated gum disease can be devastating. In the early stages of gingivitis, your gums may be tender and swollen and bleed easily when eating or brushing your teeth.

As the infection progresses, periodontitis can actually damage and destroy the bone in your jaw.

This can lead to serious health effects, including lost teeth.

How Gum Disease Affects Whole Body Health

how to prevent gum disease

Unfortunately, the danger gum disease poses to your body goes beyond your teeth, gums, and jaw. Advanced gum disease can introduce bacteria to the rest of your body, leading to infections and illness throughout the body.

Modern research suggests that untreated gum disease may contribute to:

  • Heart disease
  • Lung disorders
  • Arthritis
  • Strokes
  • Diabetes
  • Coronary artery disease

Think of your mouth as a “door” to the rest of your body. Once the infection gets in the “door” there’s nothing to stop it from traveling throughout your body. Your oral health is integral to your overall health and wee-being!

How To Prevent Gum Disease

For many people, preventing gum disease is simple: brush and floss twice a day and visit the dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings.

However, there are many risk factors that can increase your gum disease risk, including:

  • Using tobacco products and smoking cigarettes
  • Having diseases that affect your immune system (HIV, diabetes, leukemia)
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Taking medicines that result in dry mouth

Additionally, older people with weaker immune systems may be more likely to contract gum disease. Genetics may make it very difficult for some people to avoid gum disease, no matter how well they brush and floss.

If you’re in a high-risk group or you have had gum disease in the past, it’s very important to keep an eye out for early signs of gum disease.

Warning Signs & Symptoms of Gum Disease

Common warning signs and symptoms of early-stage gum disease include:

  • Red gums
  • Swollen gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Bad breath

Untreated, advanced, gum disease may lead to symptoms like:

  • Visibly receding gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Pain when eating

If you notice any of these symptoms or warning signs, see your dentist soon! Gum disease is generally easy to diagnose, and the sooner treatment is started, the better!

Is Gum Disease Treatable?

Yes! When caught early, gum disease may be treated with prescription mouthwashes or antibiotics. Additional deep cleaning of the teeth can remove bacterial plaque build-up and restore your gum health.

However, when gum disease progresses, other treatments may be called for. At Timberhill Dental, we use the WaterLase YSGG HydroKinetic Dental Laser, a less-invasive option for treating gum disease.

The WaterLase combines laser energy and water to create hydrokinetic energy. The laser-energized water can gently and precisely remove diseased soft gum tissue and bacterial plaque build up on the teeth leaving healthy tissue and tooth structure intact.

Learn More About Gum Disease at Timberhill Dental

Are you worried about gum disease? Are you one of the high-risk groups we mentioned in today’s post? Do you have any of the symptoms of gum disease? The sooner you begin preventive treatments, the sooner you can start feeling better and healthier.

At Timberhill Dental, we make gum disease screenings part of our dental cleanings and exams. Contact us today or call (541) 754-0144 to schedule your next appointment.

Dr. Black and the Timberhill Dental team are here to help you!

Photo Credits: Wikipedia