Gum Disease Prevalence Surpasses Diabetes with Nearly 65 Million Affected

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

With one in every two adults age 30 and older suffering from periodontal disease, commonly referred to as gum disease, the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) is calling for Americans to Love the Gums You’re With and take better care of their gums. Periodontal disease can lead to receding gums, bone damage, loss of teeth, and can increase the risk of other health problems such as heart disease and diabetes. Despite its prevalence, periodontal disease is hardly ever discussed, resulting in a lack of urgency for people to properly care for their gums. Simple steps like brushing twice a day, flossing daily and receiving an annual comprehensive periodontal evaluation from a periodontist can help detect and prevent gum disease.

Periodontal disease is an inflammatory condition that, if left untreated, may cause damage to the tissues and bone surrounding the teeth, eventually leading to tooth loss. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 65 million Americans are affected by periodontal disease. In addition to diabetes, periodontal disease has been linked to other chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and even cancer.

“Many people don’t know that  periodontal disease is so common and often overlooked,” said Stuart J. Froum, DDS, president of the American Academy of Periodontology, clinical professor and director of clinical research at New York University’s Department of Periodontics and Implant Dentistry. “With more Americans suffering from this disease than diabetes, the AAP created Love the Gums You’re With to educate the public on the importance of prevention and early diagnosis of periodontal disease.”

Periodontal disease typically does not cause pain until it’s in an advanced stage, at which point much of the damage has been done and tooth support destroyed. To raise awareness and help consumers better understand periodontal disease, the AAP is teaming up with Chris Harrison to launch the Love the Gums You’re With educational effort. As host of ABC’s “The Bachelor,” Harrison has the experience to know first impressions are important and what makes a successful long-term relationship. Just as personal relationships thrive on daily attention and care, so does the relationship with your gums. 

To aid in the prevention of periodontal disease, the AAP recommends establishing good oral hygiene habits including brushing at least twice a day, flossing daily and discussing gum health with a dental professional. Each patient is unique, and a dental professional can make a referral to a periodontist, a dentist who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of periodontal disease, for a comprehensive periodontal evaluation and specialized periodontal treatment plan.

To learn more, a brief quiz on perio.org/loveyourgums helps people to evaluate the current state of their gum health, learn the signs and symptoms of periodontal disease, and receive tips on how to properly care for their gums. In addition to educational information, people can also search for a periodontist in their area, who can work with them to create a personalized plan to help support a life-long commitment to healthy gums.

About Periodontal Disease
Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria in the mouth that form plaque below the gum line. There are more than 500 bacterial species that can be found in plaque, and brushing alone does not remove the bacteria that live below the gum line. Poor oral hygiene is a primary cause of periodontal disease, but smoking is also a significant risk factor in the development and progression of the disease. While periodontal disease is mostly preventable and treatable, the early warning signs can be painless, leading to a lack of urgency in people to establish adequate oral hygiene habits or to discuss their periodontal health with a dental professional. With an appropriate diagnosis, the damage from periodontal disease is reversible in many cases.