I’m mortified to admit it, but here goes: I have gum disease.
It’s not something I am particularly proud to confess mind you, yet I have to come to grips with that new reality sooner rather than later. The discovery came just a couple weeks ago, after a trip to my dentist revealed “the good, the bad and the ugly.”
I’m equally horrified to tell you I felt better after learning nearly 75 percent of all American adults over age 30 have some form of gum disease. As the old saying goes, misery loves company and statistically speaking, I’m not alone.
If you are thinking, “Eh, gum disease, what’s the big deal?” I hear you, sister. I used to think the same thing.
Then I learned gingivitis — the mildest form of gum disease — and its much more sinister relative, periodontitis, can affect more than just a person’s mouth.
Left untreated, gum disease can lead to or worsen, all kinds of health problems from heart disease and stroke, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, respiratory disease such as pneumonia and bronchitis, and even kidney, pancreatic and blood cancers.
Though a cause-and-effect relationship hasn’t been scientifically established, the general consensus is that the 500 different types of bacteria in our mouths can penetrate through the tissue/blood barrier and enter our bloodstream where they can wreak systemic chaos.
While gum disease can be caused by poor oral hygiene habits — not brushing and flossing as well or often as one should—that’s not the only culprit.
When our teeth and gums are not cared for properly, all that bacteria colonizing inside our mouths that's responsible for breaking down food we eat, can cause some nasty irritation and inflammation of the gums.
During the process, harmful and toxic byproducts are released, causing our gums to get sore, bleed, and eventually pull away from the teeth, giving them a longer than normal appearance and eroding the bones that anchor them.
While we learn about the importance of regular brushing in primary school, I was unaware that being a woman can just as easily contribute to the risk of gum disease. Thanks Mother Nature!