A senior lecturer from the University College London this week made the startling claim that gum disease isn’t really that bad for you. He claims that the effects have been exaggerated to help sell mouthwash and fancy toothpaste. As with any such outrageous claim, there is some truth here, but a lot of misrepresentation.
Claim 1: Gum Disease Is a Normal Part of Aging
There is some truth to this. Gum disease risk increases with age, and people can expect to see more of it as they age.
But just because something is normal, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s desirable. There are many other risks that increase normally with age, such as heart attack or stroke–both of which are linked to gum disease–that we nonetheless want to try to prevent.
Claim 2: Bleeding Gums Don’t Mean Your Teeth Are at Risk
The claim is that, along with gum disease increasing with age, you’re naturally going to experience bleeding gums, and it’s not necessarily anything to worry about.
There is some truth to this, but it’s definitely tortured. Red, swollen, and sometimes even bleeding gums are associated with gingivitis, a minor form of gum disease. For many people, gingivitis persists for basically their entire life, never developing into the more severe form of periodontitis that threatens teeth. We don’t always know what makes the difference, but we do know that preventing and treating gum disease decreases the risk that you will lose your teeth.
Claim 3: Your Personal Hygiene Is the Most Important Part of Treating Gum Disease
This claim is right on the spot. No one can have as much impact on your oral health as you can. By taking care of your teeth on a daily basis, you will make the most impact on your oral health. Make sure you are brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing every day.
Claim 4: Periodontal Treatments Aren’t Helpful
This is the claim that is definitely unjustified. Although we recognize that your personal hygiene is the most important part of taking care of your teeth, that doesn’t mean that periodontal treatments don’t also have a role to play. Gum disease treatment, including scaling and planing, can help preserve your teeth.
When you read claims like this, it’s important to be skeptical, because even if there is some truth to them, there’s often a lot of misinformation, too.