What is gum disease, and why are some more prone than others?

Minneapolis—— Last week, Minnesota Timberwolves co-owner and former baseball star Alex Rodriguez Disclose that you have gum disease to raise awareness. His story quickly became one of the most viewed stories on WCCO.com.

“Without any thought of gum disease, the dentist told me the news, and then I found out that over 65 million Americans have this gum disease,” Rodriguez said.

So what is gum disease? How to treat? good question.

Often, most people with gum disease don't even know they have it. Deb Merrigan, an instructor at the Dental Hygiene Clinic at Normandale Community College, said there are usually no symptoms.

According to the CDC, almost half of adults age 30 and older have some form of gum disease, and the rates are even higher in people over 60,” Merrigan said. “Gum disease is a disease of teeth. Inflammation of the surrounding soft tissue. We start to see the gums become more puffy, swollen, red, and may show signs of bleeding.”

This usually starts when plaque builds up on the teeth along the gum line, which happens when you don't brush your teeth often enough or don't brush them properly. But other factors include smoking, diabetes, a weakened immune system or hormonal changes such as pregnancy.

“If left unchecked, it can progress to what we call periodontal disease, where we start to see a breakdown of the supporting soft and hard tissue around the teeth, ultimately leading to tooth loss,” Merrigan said.

The good news is that gum disease can be reversed if caught early. It is highly recommended to visit the dentist at least twice a year. From there, follow the “2×2 rule,” which means brushing twice a day for two minutes each time. Next is flossing, then mouthwash.

When you go to the store, read the label to see if it's suitable for gum disease, which can help reduce microbial levels in your mouth,” Merrigan says.

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