During the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans are taking a number of measures to avoid exposure to the virus. Wearing masks in public, frequent hand washing, and wiping surfaces with antibacteria cleaners has become commonplace.

During this time, people who are elderly or ill are urged to be especially cautious due to having a more compromised immune system. A healthy immune system enables the body to combat viral and bacterial invaders and aid in recovery.

All people should take measures to support their immune systems. On a day-to-day basis, this is aided through a proper diet, sufficient sleep, regular exercise, and staying hydrated. Certain vitamins and minerals can also give the body a ‘leg up’ when it comes to fighting off illness.

As you and your family move through the challenges this virus has created, we’d like to emphasize an important but often overlooked component of your health — your oral gum tissues.

Gum disease (also referred to as periodontal disease) can sneak up on you. It begins silently, without obvious warning signs. Once they appear, it is important to take prompt action. Gum disease will not improve without treatment.

The stages include…

1. Oral Bacteria Buildup – Our mouths offer a warm, moist environment that is ideal for bacteria growth. Although bacteria cannot be prevented altogether, the problem begins when too much bacteria accumulate.

2. Plaque – Without proper brushing, flossing, saliva flow and diet, oral bacteria breeds – and rapidly. Their accumulation over the course of a day forms a sticky film you feel on teeth, known as plaque.

3. Development of Calculus – In just 48 hours, calculus (also known as tartar) can harden onto teeth. Calculus is a cement-hard colony of oral bacteria. Like plaque, calculus will continually reproduce and grow as the bacteria feed on tooth enamel and tender gum tissues.

4. Gingivitis – This is the first stage of gum disease. At this level, gum tissues are under attack. They are tender in spots and may bleed easily when brushing. Your breath will be bad more often. With proper and prompt measures, the gums may be restored to a healthy state with minimal care. However, there is a fine line between being able to undo gingivitis and its progression to gum disease.

5. Periodontal (Gum) Disease – At this level, the gums are inflamed and tender. You may notice them darken in color and begin to pull away from the base of some teeth. Breath odor is persistently bad.

6. Advanced Gum Disease – When gum disease progresses to periodontitis, your breath odor is persistently offensive. Bacteria-filled pus pockets may form on gum tissues near the base of some teeth. Chewing becomes painful and teeth can loosen, eventually requiring removal.

Once periodontitis sets in, it progresses in several stages. These are:

  • Chronic periodontitis is the most common type. This stage causes destruction in the gums and bone and loss of teeth if left untreated.
  • Aggressive periodontitis causes rapid progression of bone and tooth loss.
  • Necrotizing periodontal disease is death of gum tissue, tooth ligaments and supporting bone. This occurs due to lack of blood supply (necrosis), resulting in severe infection.

Sadly, over 47 percent of American adults have some level of gum disease. It is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss in spite of being one of the most preventable of all diseases.

A particular challenge of gum disease is its ability to seep its potent bacteria into the bloodstream. This allows it to travel to other parts of the body. Research has linked its inflammatory triggers to heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, preterm babies, some cancers, impotency, and even Alzheimer’s disease.

For the well-being of your smile and your overall health, it is important to maintain a committed oral care regimen at home. Also, be very dedicated to regular dental cleanings and exams. During these visits, your hygienist can remove built up plaque and catch signs of periodontal disease early.

Early action can help your prevent gum disease and the infectious bacteria it can load into your immune system. If you’re behind on regular dental check-ups, please call 219-987-5733. New patients are always welcome!