Gum disease: More serious that you might think

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February 14th, 2018

February is Gum Disease Awareness Month

Graphic of tooth and gum

Did you know an estimated 85 percent of Americans have varying degrees of gum disease? That’s 274 million people whose gums need some TLC!

Back in 2012, the Institute for Advanced Laser Dentistry (IALD) named February the official Gum Disease Awareness Month with an aim to inform people about the prevalence of gum disease and how to prevent and treat it. In honor of that, let’s examine what gum disease is, why you shouldn’t shrug it off, and what you can do if you have symptoms.


Gum disease, aka periodontal disease, is sometimes called a “silent killer,” because it is painless and sometimes doesn’t present symptoms at all. There are warning signs:

  • Loose, sensitive teeth
  • Red, swollen, tender gums that bleed easily
  • Persistent bad breath or bad taste in your mouth
  • A change in your bite


Untreated gum disease can lead to periodontal pockets, where gums separate from the teeth and form areas that become infected. That leads to periodontitis, where bone and gum loss occur and teeth might need to be removed.

Gum disease is also linked to a variety of very serious health problems—from obesity, heart disease and diabetes to osteoporosis, dementia and cancer. More scientific research is needed to determine whether there’s a cause-effect relationship between gum disease and these issues, or if periodontal disease merely indicates an unhealthy lifestyle that leads to even bigger problems.


Gum disease is caused by plaque—that sneaky villain you’ve been hearing about since you were a kid.

Plaque is a sticky bacteria that forms on your teeth within 20 minutes after you eat. As it accumulates, it transforms the foods and drinks you consume into acids and then holds those acids close to your teeth, wearing away the enamel that keeps your pearly whites powerful.

Plaque that isn’t brushed away becomes tartar, a harder substance that’s more difficult to clean, giving the new bacteria you bring into your mouth a place to thrive. That buildup creates gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease. So you can see why it’s important to protect your teeth from plaque early on!

American Academy of Periodontology research indicates that your genes can make you more vulnerable to gum disease, too. If your mom or dad had it, you might as well.


Visit your dentist. Regular checkups ensure you’re monitoring and maintaining your gums properly. A dentist can remove plaque you can’t reach or can’t kick out with a toothbrush. That said, good dental habits go a long way, so remember to brush at least twice every day and floss daily.

Spread the word about Gum Disease Awareness Month! Visit