If you are a U.S. adult age 30 or older, there’s nearly a 50 percent chance that you have periodontal (gum) disease, according to a recent study in the Journal of Dental Research.
Scientists evaluated data on the periodontal health of 3,742 individuals participating in the 2009 and 2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. More than 47 percent had mild, moderate or severe periodontal disease. This rate would mean that nearly 65 million U.S. adults have periodontal disease.
Older adults (age 65 and older) studied were more likely to have moderate or severe periodontal disease. Other risk factors noted by researchers included being male, being in the Mexican American ethnic group, having less than a high school education, living below poverty level or being a current smoker.
According to MouthHealthy.org, the ADA’s website for consumers, periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues that surround and support your teeth. It is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. Because periodontal disease is usually painless, you may not know you have it. Warning signs include:
- gums that bleed easily,
- red, swollen, tender gums,
- gums that have pulled away from the teeth,
- persistent bad breath or bad taste,
- permanent teeth that are loose or separating,
- any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite,
- any change in the fit of partial dentures.
MouthHealthy.org also notes that certain risk factors increase your chance of developing periodontal disease, including poor oral hygiene, smoking or chewing tobacco, genetics, crooked teeth that are difficult to keep clean, pregnancy, diabetes and medications, including steroids, certain types of anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, some calcium channel blockers and oral contraceptives.
See your dentist if you suspect you have periodontal disease The early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. If you have gingivitis, your gums may become red, swollen and bleed easily. At this stage, the disease is still reversible and can usually be eliminated by a professional cleaning at your dental office, followed by daily brushing and flossing.
Advanced gum disease, or periodontitis, can lead to the loss of tissue and bone that support the teeth and may become more severe over time.
It is possible to have periodontal disease and have no warning signs. The ADA recommends brushing your teeth twice a day, cleaning between your teeth daily, eating a balanced diet and scheduling regular dental visits.© American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.