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Myths About Gum Disease

MYTH: Tooth loss is a natural part of ageing.

FACT: With good oral hygiene and regular professional care, your teeth are meant to last a lifetime. However, if left untreated, gum disease can lead to tooth loss. It is the primary cause of tooth loss in adults 35 and over.

MYTH: People who have gum disease don’t brush their teeth.

FACT: Up to 30% of the population may be genetically susceptible to gum disease. Despite aggressive oral care habits, these people may be six times more likely to develop gum disease. Identifying these people and getting them into early treatment may help them keep their teeth for a lifetime.

MYTH: Gum disease doesn’t affect overall health.

FACT: Emerging research links gum disease to other health problems including heart and respiratory diseases; preterm, low birth weight babies; stroke; osteoporosis; and diabetes.

MYTH: Gum disease is a minor infection.

FACT: The mass of tissue in the oral cavity is equivalent to the skin on your arm that extends from the wrist to the elbow. If this area was red, swollen, and infected, you would visit the doctor. Gum disease is not a small infection. Its result, tooth loss, can lead to a very different lifestyle—dentures. The changes in your appearance, breath, and ability to chew food are dramatic.

MYTH: Bleeding gums are normal.

FACT: Bleeding gums are one of the warning signs of gum disease. Think of gum tissue as the skin on your hand. If your hands bled every time you washed them, you would know something was wrong. Other signs of gum disease include: red, swollen or tender gums; sores in your mouth; gums that have pulled away from the teeth; persistent bad breath; pus between the teeth and gums (leaving bad breath); loose or separating teeth; a change in the way the teeth fit together; and a change in the fit of partial dentures.

MYTH: Gum disease affects all races and ethnicities equally.

FACT: While gum disease can affect anyone, certain populations are especially at risk. People of Black African and Hispanic heritage are more likely to develop gum problems than people of European descent. While the reason for this increased risk is not known, it may be due to the frequency of dental visits or different inflammatory responses in different ethnicities, difference in diet and susceptibility to the oral bacteria that causes gum disease.

MYTH: Treatment for gum disease is painful.

FACT: Local anesthesia, sedation techniques and over-the-counter medications, have made patients’ treatment experiences pleasant and comfortable. Many patients find they are back to their normal routines on the same day or by the next day.

MYTH: Gum disease is easy to identify, even in its early stages, so my dentist would tell me if I had it.

FACT: Millions of people don’t know they have this serious infection that can lead to tooth loss if not treated. You should always get involved, so that problems are detected in the early stages. You should inform your dentist if any signs of gum disease are present; or if any changes in your overall health or medications occurred in between visits. Most importantly, you should ask your dentist about your gum health and what method was used to evaluate its condition. This level of participation enables you to work in a team approach with your dentist to identify subtle changes that may occur in the oral cavity.

MYTH: Once teeth are lost, the only treatment options are crowns, bridges or dentures.

FACT: Dental implants are a permanent tooth-replacement option for teeth lost to trauma, injury or periodontal disease. Dental implants are so natural-looking, and feeling that many patients forget they ever lost a tooth.

MYTH: Cavities are the number-one cause of tooth loss.

FACT: Gum disease is the number-one cause of tooth loss. Gum disease is a more vital oral health concern than tooth decay by a 2-to-1 margin.

MYTH: Because gum disease is a bacterial infection, antibiotics can be used to treat it.

FACT: Research demonstrates that antibiotics can be a helpful adjunct to treating gum disease. However, medical and dental communities are concerned about the overuse of these medications in treating infections because of the possibility of the development of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria. This overuse would be detrimental to patients if they develop a life-threatening illness for which antibiotics would no longer be helpful.

MYTH: Pregnant women should skip professional dental check-ups.

FACT: Teeth and gums are affected during pregnancy like other tissues in the body. In order to decrease the risk of damaging the gums and tissues surrounding the teeth, pregnant women should schedule an appointment for a periodontal evaluation.

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