Word of Appreciation

Updated: 02/25/2011

Killer Disease Sweeps Planet!

By Sheila Wolf, RDH

"KILLER DISEASE SWEEPS PLANET!" If you saw this unforgettable headline in your local paper, would you be alarmed? Would you read the article to discover the "what, who, where, and why" about this dreadful killer disease? Or simply run naked and screaming into the streets to warn all the neighbors?

Recent studies indicate that as many as four out of five people suffer from some form of gum disease. While many have only early forms such as gingivitis, a relatively mild infection of the gums, almost half have that infection's insidious older brother, periodontitis, which also attacks the bone that forms the very foundation for your teeth. Gum disease, technically known as periodontal (around the teeth) disease, puts your very teeth squarely at risk. Sufficiently advanced, it will cause them to become loose, or even to fall out altogether. This disease, and not dental caries or tooth decay, is responsible for sixty percent of lost adult teeth.

Ask anyone who's ever had it happen to her: Tooth loss definitely impacts your quality of life. For example, I once had a patient who was literally terrified that if she either sneezed or coughed, her dentures would be propelled out of her mouth and go flying across the room! Needless to say, that consciousness affected her every social activity. As you might imagine, our mouths are a primary part of our presentation to the world — and they can definitely be hard to hide! The ravages of this insidious bacterial infection adversely affect more than just your smile itself, but also your very self-image and self-worth.

Yet this is not, arguably, the most important part of the story. Gum disease is linked with a number of life-threatening illnesses that include stroke, heart attack, ulcers, diabetes, respiratory disease, low birth weight and adverse pregnancy outcomes. Recent studies have found that:

  • There can be up to three times a greater risk of stroke and heart attack for people with severe periodontal disease
  • Oral bacteria has been found to be responsible for fifty-five percent of cases of infectious edema
  • Pregnant women with periodontal disease are eight times more likely to have pre-term, low birth weight babies.

"Not me," I can almost hear you saying. "I brush twice a day, floss regularly, and go to the dentist and have my teeth cleaned twice a year. My mouth is just fine." Maybe, maybe not...  More often than not, periodontal disease has no obvious symptoms. And even when they do occur, some symptoms, such as blood on your toothbrush, are even considered usual. However, contrary to what you may have learned, or thought you learned, bleeding when you brush is definitely NOT okay.

To begin the delicate task of discovering whether or not you may have gum disease, here are seven signs to look for in your mouth:

1. Do your gums bleed when you brush?

2. Are your gums red, swollen, or tender?

3. Have your gums pulled away from your teeth?

4. Do you suffer from persistent bad breath?

5. Do you see pus between your teeth and gums?

6. Are your teeth loose?

7. Have you noticed a change in your bite (the way your teeth come together)?

What can YOU do if you have gum disease? First, consult your dentist. If he suggests a radical dose of home and health care, begin immediately! If he immediately suggests periodontal surgery, run, don't walk, to get a second opinion!

Sheila Wolf “BIO”

Sheila Wolf, RDH, affectionately called “Mama Gums,” has been a registered dental hygienist since 1971. She is currently retired from clinical practice but enjoys writing, speaking, and consulting on various oral health issues. She has authored two award-winning books, Pregnancy and Oral Health: The critical connection between your mouth and your baby, and Your Mouth Could Be KILLING You. Both are available on her website, http://www.mamagums.com/about_book.html, through Amazon, and at finer bookstores everywhere. Sheila also works with people privately as an oral wellness coach, educating and empowering people to keep their natural teeth for a lifetime, avoid gum surgery, and just possibly add years to their lives. You may reach Sheila through her website, www.mamagums.com or in San Diego at 866-MAMA-GUMs. 

Sheila will happily share her articles with you. Please acknowledge her contribution by including her “Bio” at the end of the article.

Mama Gums