World Dental Federation Aims to Take Bite out of Gum Disease
Written by Consumer Guide to Dentistry Last modified on April 2, 2018
Have you ever noticed trace amounts of blood in your saliva when brushing or flossing your teeth? This is suggestive of gum inflammation and is a telltale sign of gingivitis and gum disease.
During routine dental checkups and cleanings, dentists make a point of emphasizing the importance of maintaining healthy gums. Gum health is essential in supporting healthy tooth structure and preserving the functionality of your smile. Gingivitis is the early stage of the disease, which can progress to periodontitis if not controlled.
Unfortunately, the warnings tend to fall on deaf ears for an alarmingly growing population of Americans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that as many 47.2% of Americans over the age of 30 have gum disease. That means more than 64 million Americans are at immediate risk of gum recession, tooth loss, bite irregularities and other dental problems. Outside of the United States the incidence rate is a staggering 90% among adults. This is even more alarming when you consider the general health consequences of gum disease. It has been linked with a number of serious conditions like heart disease, stroke, diabetes and pregnancy issues.
If the health concerns don’t get your attention, perhaps the hit to your wallet will. Treatments for gum disease can be costly depending on the severity of the condition. Gum recession requiring grafts can cost thousands of dollars, as can the restorations required to replace missing teeth.
The World Dental Foundation is determined to stop the spread of gum disease in its tracks by targeting it on all fronts through an initiative called the Global Periodontal Health Project (GPHP). The GPHP aims to promote the benefits (personal and societal) of gum health by raising awareness among the general public, policymakers, healthcare professionals and educators. An array of materials including a white paper, a policy statement and a specialized toolkit for target audiences will be made available during at the FDI World Dental Congress, during which a series of symposiums focused on gum disease will also be included to hone the message.
If you’ve not experienced gingivitis or gum disease before, you might be thinking this is all a bit much. Isn’t it just a matter of taking better care of your dental hygiene? To a certain extent that’s true, but poor dental hygiene isn’t the only cause of gum disease. It can result from hormonal imbalances like those experienced during puberty, menopause and pregnancy; it can be caused by functional problems like teeth grinding or clenching; it can even be a side effect of dry mouth syndrome caused by certain medications.
But even in the case of gum disease caused by poor dental hygiene, it’s not as cut and dry as you might think. Not everyone has access to care and can adhere to the ADA-recommended two dental visits a year. We can attest to this based on the number of inquiries we receive from people pleading for financial assistance in combatting dental problems. By working with policymakers, the GPHP hopes to evaluate access to care barriers that are undoubtedly the cause of many cases of gum disease.
To learn more about how gum disease affects your overall health, check out our article on the oral-systemic connection, or our slideshow identifying 6 serious health conditions linked to gum disease.