Treating any disease early on is key to preventing serious health problems, and the same goes for gum disease. Almost 50 percent of adults over age 30 in the United States have some form of periodontal (gum) disease based on findings by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention. Varying in severity from mild inflammation (gingivitis) to a serious chronic condition called periodontitis, gum disease can result in the loss of teeth. Nonetheless, reversing gum disease when it's still possible in its early stages is easy if you know the signs and symptoms.
According to the American Academy of Periodontology, gum disease is your body's response to harmful bacteria that cling to your teeth in the form of plaque. Although bacteria is the main culprit, there are other factors that can enhance the severity of the condition, such as poor oral hygiene, smoking, hormonal changes in girls or women, medications that cause dry mouth and diabetes – which compromises your ability to fight infection. Family genetics are also known to play a part, making some people more prone to severe forms of gum disease, as stated by the National Institute of Dental Craniofacial Research as is stress.
The first stage of gum disease, called gingivitis, is reversible. Recognizing and treating early signs of gingivitis allows you to stop the progression of this disease before it affects the bone surrounding your teeth. Here are the reversible signs and symptoms of gingivitis that you'll want to look for:
- Red or swollen gums (healthy gums are pink and firm)
- Bleeding gums when you brush your teeth or floss
- Bad breath
- Heavy tartar buildup
- Sensitive teeth
How You Can Reverse It
Good oral hygiene practices are essential to reversing gum disease and preventing it from returning. Thoroughly brushing your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristle toothbrush and flossing at least once a day are your primary tools for keeping bacterial plaque off of your teeth and from irritating the gums. If your toothbrush is old and frayed, get a new one. Once the bristles start to wear, they don't clean as effectively – especially around the gumline, where bacteria tend to build up.
Saliva helps wash away bacteria from both your teeth and gums. So, be sure to keep your mouth moist by drinking plenty of water and using sugarless lozenges and gum to help stimulate saliva – particularly if you have dry mouth. A mouthwash such as Colgate Total® Advanced Pro-Shield™ can also help limit the amount of bacteria that stays in your mouth.
Research shows that by eating nutrient rich foods, you can boost your immune system and slow down the progression of gum disease. The Academy of General Dentistry recommends a healthy diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, meats and fish, whole grain products and dairy.
If you are a smoker and are showing signs of gingivitis, this may be the time to kick the habit. Smokers are more prone to gum infections, and smoking makes it harder for their gums to heal.
How Your Dental Professional Can Reverse It
Routine dental checkups are always important to the health of your gums. Your dentist checks not only for decay during a visit, but also for early signs of gum disease that you may not have noticed yet.
Professional cleanings performed by your dentist or dental hygienist will remove the buildup of tartar that you can't remove with a toothbrush on your own. By keeping plaque and tartar off of your teeth, you effectively prevent bacteria from maintaining a hiding place long enough to develop gum disease.
If you notice any signs of gingivitis in your mouth, it's probably time to schedule a dental appointment. Your dentist can determine the severity of your condition and help you implement a plan that stops it from progressing.
Having embraced a regimen of good oral hygiene and professional cleanings, you'll find that your gums stop bleeding, return to their healthy pink state, give off a fresh breath, and allow your teeth and smile to sparkle again – all indications that you've successfully reversed your gingivitis.