February is an important month for your gums. Why? February is Gum Disease Awareness Month, Heart Health Month, Black History Month and National Children’s Dental Health Month. And guess what? They’re all related to your gums.

This February is the fifth anniversary of Gum Disease Awareness Month. Started by the Institute for Advanced Laser Dentistry (IALD), the mission was to raise awareness about the disease that affects 85% of U.S. adults.

Of course, February is also Heart Health month. The Heart Foundation encourages all of us to make a difference in the fight against heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for people in the United States. A correlation exists between oral disease and heart function! While it isn’t known if one disease directly causes the other, researchers see a connection through inflammation which causes swelling. Hardened (swollen) arteries are a symptom of heart disease; swollen gums are a sign of periodontitis. The bacteria that causes gum disease may also be a contributor to mayocarditis — when your heart becomes inflamed. The theory is that the bacteria causing gum diseases flows through the vascular pathways from the mouth and travels throughout your body, affecting different systems along the way including your heart. That’s why addressing gum disease just may decrease the bacteria found in one’s heart, and it is not uncommon that heart surgeons require dental check-ups and treatment of gum disease before surgeries.

Black History and Gum Disease Awareness month seem unrelated, but they are also connected. How? Gum disease is highest among ethnic minorities. The 2015 study from the CDC reported that 59.1% of Non-Hispanic Blacks aged 30 and over are affected by periodontitis. Experts point to an oral health disparity that exists between racial and ethnic groups, as well as other factors, including economics, gender, age, and geography. With such a high amount of this population affected, it remains critical for all adults to have a comprehensive periodontal evaluation by their dental professional every year.

Finally, February celebrates National Children’s Dental Health Month. Dental health professionals and healthcare providers work throughout the month of February to promote the principles of excellent oral health to kids and those that care for them. Gum disease is more prevalent in an older population; however, it can affect children also. Gum Disease is considered a ‘communicable’ disease – meaning those with the disease can transfer to others. Using the same spoon to swipe a bit of your child’s dessert could actually transmit gum disease causing bacteria.

Furthermore, the good health habits one learns when they are young are the same that will help them prevent the onset of gum disease later. One of the best was to treat gum disease is prevention!

February is also National Pet Dental Health Month, because you can’t leave the fur babies out! Yes, your dogs and cat can also contract gum disease

It is important to remember that beginning gum disease is reversible and moderate to severe periodontal disease is treatable. For the more serious cases, traditional surgery used to be the only option for treatment. However, the LANAP® protocol is the only laser surgery approved by the FDA to regenerate the bone and tissues lost to gum disease. Good news – laser surgery is less painful with a shorter recovery time, and has been proven to eliminate the bacteria causing gum disease for successful long-term outcomes.

Gum health is an important topic any month, but many lines intersect for gums in February. If you haven’t already, be sure to make your appointment to see your dental professional to have a complete periodontal exam for 2017.