Whether it’s the smoldering smirk of Ian Somerhalder or the infectious grin of Sophia Vergara, when most people think about a healthy smile, they picture straight, white teeth. Many never stop to consider the health of the gums and bone supporting those teeth that allow for a beautiful smile.
A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that nearly one out of every two American adults aged 30 and over has gum disease, also known as periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the gum tissue and bone supporting the teeth. The early stages of periodontal disease are often asymptomatic; many adults may have the disease and not know it.
“Periodontal disease is insidious,” warns Nancy L. Newhouse, DDS, MS, President of the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) and a practicing periodontist in Independence, Missouri. “Many people don’t even know they have a problem until it turns into a severe case. Just because your teeth and gums don’t hurt, doesn’t mean your mouth is healthy.”
Over time, inflammation as a result of periodontal disease causes the gums and bones surrounding the teeth to recede. “When you lose teeth or the structures holding your teeth in place, the overall look of your face, mouth and smile will be impacted,” says Dr. Newhouse.”
What’s more, periodontal disease can affect more than just your smile. Research has indicated that periodontal disease is associated with other chronic inflammatory diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Symptoms of periodontal disease include:
- Bleeding gums during brushing
- Red, swollen or tender gums
- Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
- Persistent bad breath
- Pus between the teeth and gums
- Loose or separating teeth
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
Dr. Newhouse recommends routine brushing and flossing as well as receiving a comprehensive periodontal evaluation, or CPE, every year. A CPE gauges your periodontal health, diagnoses existing disease, assesses risk for disease, and determines any treatment, if needed. The CPE can be performed at your regular check-up by a member of the dental team, including a general dentist, dental hygienist or periodontist.
“By maintaining your periodontal health, you are not only helping to support your overall health, but also ensuring that your smile lasts a lifetime,” says Dr. Newhouse.