The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) estimates that more than half of American adults suffer from some form of gum disease – from mild cases of gingivitis, to the more severe form known as periodontitis, also known as gum disease. However, despite this prevalence, approximately only three percent of those patients seek treatment for their gum disease. With increasingly more research indicating that gum disease may be linked to several other diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and certain forms of cancer, maintaining healthy teeth and gums has become more important than ever. In order to help distinguish fact from fiction regarding periodontal disease, the AAP has identified and addressed some common misconceptions about oral health.
Myth #1: Bleeding gums are not that big of a deal.
Red, swollen and bleeding gums are an important sign of periodontal disease. If you notice bleeding while brushing or flossing, or when eating certain foods, you should schedule a visit with your dental professional to be evaluated for periodontal disease. Studies have shown that in addition to tooth loss, gum disease may contribute to the progression of other diseases, including heart disease and diabetes, so it is important that you begin treating periodontal disease as soon as possible.
Myth #2: You don’t need to floss every day.
Routine oral care, which includes brushing after every meal and before bedtime, and flossing at least once a day, is the best way to prevent gum disease. However, a recent survey estimates that only 13.5 percent of Americans floss each day. It is vital that you keep up with your daily oral care, and see a dental professional for a thorough check-up twice a year. If gum disease is diagnosed, a consultation with a periodontist, a dentist who specializes in treating periodontal disease, may be beneficial.
Myth #3: A visit to the periodontist will be scary.
Periodontists are gum disease experts. They have received three or more years of specialized training following dental school centered on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of periodontal disease. Periodontists are equipped with the latest treatments and technologies, using innovative tools such as digital radiography, ultrasound technology, biomarker measurement and laser therapy. These newer methods of periodontal treatment are far less invasive and have speedy recovery times making your visit and recovery much more comfortable compared to traditional treatment methods.
Myth #4: A tooth lost to gum disease is a tooth lost forever.
Gum disease is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. However, in addition to treating gum disease, periodontists are also experts in placing dental implants – a convenient and comfortable way to permanently replace missing teeth. A dental implant is an artificial tooth root that is placed into the jaw to hold a replacement tooth. Studies have shown that dental implants have a 98 percent success rate, and with proper care, allow you to speak, eat and smile with confidence. In fact, a survey conducted by the American Academy of Periodontology found that over 70 percent of respondents reported being “pleased” or “extremely satisfied” with the results of their dental implants.
Myth #5: Poor oral hygiene is the only way to develop gum disease.
Forgoing good oral hygiene can certainly contribute to the progression of gum disease, but there are a variety of other factors that can also impact your risk. For instance, tobacco use has been shown to greatly increase your chance of developing gum disease. Stress, poor diet, and even genetics, can also play a role in the health of your gums. To determine your risk of developing gum disease, the AAP offers a free online risk assessment test, found on perio.org. Now that you are armed with the facts about gum disease, make sure you discuss any concerns about your oral health with your dental professional. Also let them know of any chronic health issues such as respiratory disease, osteoporosis, even some types of cancer since those and several other diseases have been linked to gum disease. As with any disease, early detection and treatment is always best.