Gum disease usually strikes when you’re in your thirties and forties. If left untreated, gum disease can lead to other health problems. Are you at risk?
What is gum disease?
Our gums and bones are what hold our teeth in place. The area where the gums and teeth meet is called the point of attachment, or gum line. Gum disease occurs when there is too much plaque on the teeth and gums. Plaque is a sticky white substance that is full of bacteria. When we brush our teeth, we remove the daily plaque buildup. But, if we neglect our oral hygiene, the plaque hardens into tartar. Unfortunately, tartar can’t be removed with simple brushing and flossing because it’s so rough. Plus, once you have tartar, more plaque can form leading to more tartar. The formation of tartar causes your gums to become red and inflamed. The bone that supports the teeth can also become infected.
There are three types of gum disease: gingivitis, periodontitis, advanced periodontitis. If you do not treat gum diseases in its early stages, you can save your teeth and gums from further problems. However, if you do not treat gum disease right away, tooth loss will probably occur.
What are the symptoms of gum disease?
Gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease is marked by red gums that may bleed upon brushing. As the disease progresses, you may notice that biting into hard foods like apples leaves your gums bloody as well. You may also notice that your gums are inflamed and sensitive. In the periodontitis stage, your gums may change colour, swell, recede and begin to hurt. In the advanced periodontitis stage, the supporting structures of your teeth (the bones) may become brittle and your teeth will get loose or even fall out on their own. During all stages of gum disease you can experience bad breath that cannot be tamed from toothbrushing or mouthwash use, painful chewing and sensitive teeth.
What are the common causes of gum disease?
There are eight common causes of gum disease:
- Plaque buildup: The bacteria found in plaque needs to be removed through regular brushing and flossing. As mentioned above, if plaque is not removed it turns into tartar and you’re stuck with gum disease.
- Smoking: If you smoke, you are at risk for gum disease. Smoking interferes with circulation and how much blood and oxygen can flow freely through the body. In addition, if you are able to catch gum disease in its early stages, smoking will interfere with the healing process.
- Poor diet: Eating a balanced diet can help keep gum disease at bay. Avoid processed foods and foods that are high in sugar.
- Hormones: Women who are experiencing puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, menopause or any other bodily change that affects the hormones are more at risk for gum disease. This is due to the gums becoming more sensitive during these periods.
- Certain medications: Some medications cause dry mouth which reduces the flow of saliva. Without ample saliva we are at risk for bacterial infections that can lead to gum disease. There are also some medications that cause drug-induced gingival hyperplasia resulting in an abnormal overgrowth of gum tissue. The more gum tissue you have in excess, the bigger the home for the bacteria that causes gum disease.
- Genetics: Unfortunately, if you come from a long line of people who have been diagnosed with gum disease, the chances of you getting it too are very high. Brush and floss daily to keep from getting gum disease.
- Diabetes: If you suffer from diabetes and have trouble controlling your blood sugar, you are at risk for gum disease. With proper diabetic control you can keep gum disease away.
- Crooked teeth/overcrowding: If your teeth overlap or are crooked or rotated, you are susceptible to gum disease because misalignment equals more space for plaque to build up.
How to prevent gum disease
Good oral health begins at home. Brush your teeth and tongue twice a day and floss once daily to get rid of all plaque from between the teeth, around the gums and on the tooth’s surface. Use a mouthwash that your dentist recommends and swish it in your mouth for 30 seconds after you’ve brushed and flossed. You can also check your gums in the mirror and look for redness and swelling. Visit your dentist every six months for professional cleanings. Your dentist is also looking out for the signs of gum disease and can remove any tartar that has built up. Watching what you eat is also an important factor in preventing gum disease. Stay away from foods that are high in sugar. This will also help you fight cavities. Finally, don’t smoke. If you are a smoker, you are creating major problems for not only your lungs, but your teeth and gums as well.
If you notice any of the signs of gum disease please contact Dawson Dental.