Gum disease affects approximately 80% of the adult population, yet most of the time it is so easy to avoid just by flossing and brushing each day. If you notice red, swollen, inflamed or bleeding gums, it’s time to come in for an appointment. The good news is that this is generally easy to fix.
What is gingivitis?
Most common is gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease commonly caused by the buildup of bacteria or plaque on the teeth. When left untreated, this plaque can irritate the gums, causing swelling and pain. Other risk factors for gingivitis also include:
- Drugs: The use of drugs can reduce saliva production, which puts teeth and gums at risk of decay and disease. Saliva can neutralize plaque acids and remineralize teeth.
- Smoking: Not only can smoking stain teeth and cause bad breath, it can severely damage the gums and mouth because of its toxic chemicals. Cigarettes can also suppress the immune system, making the gums more susceptible to disease.
- Hormonal changes: Gums can become hypersensitive during hormonal changes like pregnancy, menopause, and menstruation.
- Age: Older people have a higher risk of getting gingivitis.
- Poor diet: A poor diet can lead to vitamin deficiencies that leave the body vulnerable to disease. Sugary foods are also likely to contribute to plaque, tooth decay, and gum disease.
- Genetics: People with a family history of gum disease may be more at risk of getting gum disease.
Gingivitis can be treated most of the time with a thorough dental cleaning and consistent dental care regimen.
What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is more serious, potentially causing loose teeth and even bone damage. It happens when plaque spreads and grows beneath the gum line and toxins produced by the bacteria irritate the tissue. The gums then separate from the teeth, forming pockets and collecting debris. This could lead to infection and tooth decay. In its most severe stages, periodontitis could lead to rapid loss of the tissue and bone. Symptoms may include:
- Bleeding gums
- Swollen gums
- Bad breath
- Loose teeth
- Pain when chewing
- Bright red gums
- Receding gum line
Treatment for periodontal disease will require deep cleaning such as scaling or root planing which involves a few visits with the hygienist who will remove built-up plaque and tartar from under the gums. Using Laser or antimicrobial agents can increase the success rate of gum treatment significantly. Once all the plaque and bacteria have been removed, the gums will eventually heal and reattach themselves to the clean teeth if the patient is diligent about oral care. There are also antimicrobial mouthwashes available for daily use to prevent bacteria from doing further damage after visiting the dentist.
For extreme cases of periodontal disease when the bone and gum have been severely damaged, there are also gum tissue procedures and bone grafting surgeries that can help speed up the recovery process.
How do you prevent gum disease?
Preventing gum disease can be easy – just maintain a good dental hygiene routine. Brushing and flossing properly every day will remove any built up plaque or sugar from the day. Experts recommend gently brushing up and down teeth from the front and back for at least two minutes twice a day or after each meal. Flossing between every tooth removes debris from the gums that are difficult to reach with a brush. If you are predisposed to periodontitis, take extra care to brush at the gum line and floss thoroughly. It’s also important to schedule an appointment for a dental exam every 6 months. The dentist will be able to professionally clean the teeth and spot any trouble areas before they get worse.
Updated for 2018.