Gum disease is a very common illness affecting over three million people in The United States every year. This disease can start out as gingivitis and progress into advanced Periodontitis disease which can be harmful to your jaw bone and teeth.
Gum disease is caused by poor oral hygiene. The first phase of gum disease is gingivitis and involves only the swelling of the gums that surround the teeth. This phase begins when food and other debris is not cleaned from the mouth, mixes with saliva and turns into plaque that builds up on and in between teeth. When plaque isn’t cleaned off of the teeth, tartar will form. Tartar is a hard substance that can only be removed by professional cleaning at your dentist office.
When plaque and tartar are not removed however, the bacteria that they are filled with will seep into your gums causing irritation and inflammation. Gingivitis is relatively easy to remedy with the professional cleaning to remove the built up tartar and plaque and then ensuring that, at home, you are following through on a good daily oral hygiene regimen including brushing three times per day and flossing. Using an antimicrobial mouthwash after and between brushings can also help to keep gum disease at bay.
The second state of gum disease occurs when gingivitis is left untreated and the bacteria will extend into the bone where the infection will spread. This is called periodontitis. The bone will start to recede from the gums and leave deep pockets where the infection and bacteria will fester. The final stage of gum disease, advanced periodontitis, occurs when patients start to lose teeth and suffer jaw bone loss as well.
Luckily, there are several early warning signs to be aware of including:
- Slight bleeding when brushing your teeth
- Tender or softer than normal gums
- Bad breath
IF you feel as though you may have gingivitis, you should make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. Because this disease is painless and many people believe that bleeding while brushing is normal, or caused from brushing too hard or with an old toothbrush, you may not realize you have the beginning stages of gum disease until it is advanced.
There are also some attributes and even life events that can increase your risk of having gum disease so if any of these apply to you, make sure to really keep up on your brushing and flossing and have regular bi-annual cleanings done.
- Pregnancy and other hormonal changes such as puberty or menopause
- Increase in stress
- Tobacco and drug usage, as well as alcohol
- Teeth that are not straight or that overlap
- If you are undergoing cancer treatment
- Poor diet and high sugar intake
- Not having access to dental services
- Anti-seizure medications
- Mouth breathing
- Inadequate saliva production
The most important measure that you can take to prevent gum disease if by keeping up on your twice yearly dental cleanings. Not only will this keep your mouth free of tartar and plaque, but the dentist can see places in your mouth that you can’t and be able to detect gingivitis and other mouth diseases.