With the current COVID crisis making its way around the world, many of us are taking the time to reflect, learn, and care for ourselves to try and improve our overall health and wellness and lessen the impact the disease may have. Some of us are exercising more (to get outside and out of lockdown), experimenting with cooking, (for better or worse) or using the time to research those niggling questions or interests that have piqued our interest. With that in mind, we thought it worthwhile to talk about gum disease in Australia to help clarify what it is and the likelihood of gum disease impacting you.
When we are talking about gum disease we’re talking about a range of symptoms. From gums that bleed when you brush as a starting point to teeth where the gums have receded and through to the teeth that are mobile and may well need to be extracted.
Looking at the research, approximately 0-10% of the population has no gum disease. These are the lucky ones, with a good oral health care routine including regular brushing and flossing, they are able to keep their gums healthy. These guys will usually visit the dentists once a year for a check-up and clean.
Approximately 35-40% of the population has gum disease that is reversible (gingivitis). With a trip to have a professional clean every 6 months in combination with good oral health care at home these individuals will be able to maintain stable oral health.
Approximately 25-35% will have early irreversible gum disease (early periodontitis). These individuals will be at the dentist every 4-6 months having professional gum care and cleans in order to maintain and stabilise their oral health and prevent it getting worse.
This leaves 5-15% of population with severe gum disease (severe periodontitis). If you’re in this group you’ve become well accustomed with your dentist, seeing them on average every 3-4 months for intensive gum care and most likely under the care of a dental specialist. As dental professionals, we’re trying to salvage what we can for these individuals in order to slow and prevent tooth loss.
So as you can see that's a lot of inflamed, bleeding gums in the population. Like all chronic conditions, gum disease severity worsens with age, and therefore prevention and management is key to maintaining good oral health throughout your life.
So you’re probably thinking – “what do I do with this information?”. Well, there’s two key takeaways.
Firstly, preventative procedures such as great diet, good oral health routine (flossing and brushing) combined with gum care and risk assessment by your dental professional helps to limit the risk of gum disease developing and also progressing.
Secondly, the mouth, as they say, is a window into the health of your body. People with gum disease are at a higher risk for other systemic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes etc. This is likely due to their genetic predisposition along with diet and lifestyle factors. The state of inflammation in the mouth has a clear impact on systemic diseases. With this in mind, it pays to look after your pearly whites, not just to maintain your pleasant smile but to ensure your reducing your risks of other health concerns.
So which group are you in?
Article Written by Jason Alfrey
Jason is a Consulting Oral Health Therapist at Channon Lawrence Dental. He has practiced in the region for 15 years. Jason provides general dental care to all ages with specific interests in children’s dentistry, Minimal Intervention Dentistry, Periodontal Care (Gum Care) and management of the ageing dentition.
Peterson P.E, Ogawa H. (2012) 'The Global Burden of Periodontal Disease: Towards integration with chronic disease prevention and control.'Periodontology 2000. Vol 60 15-39.