Over 46% of adults in the United States have advanced gum disease, according to the Journal of Periodontology. Despite the number of people struggling with this problem, it can cause severe problems if left untreated. We’re here to tell you exactly what gum disease is and provide helpful information to avoid and treat it.
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is also known as periodontal disease and is common in adults. This problem is caused by the buildup of plaque (the bacteria and sugars that stick to your teeth). When plaque isn’t cleaned thoroughly during your dental routine, it can cause your gums to become infected and inflamed.
Untreated gum disease can cause gum recession and tooth loss and is linked to diabetes and heart disease. Luckily, you can prevent and treat most gum disease by following good dental habits.
Factors that increase your risk of gum disease are:
- Smoking and substance abuse
- HIV and other chronic health problems
- Puberty and other periods of hormonal instability
- Diabetes and poor diet
- Advanced age
If you’re worried about your risk factors, pay special attention to your dental hygiene, and consult your oral care professional.
The Stages of Gum Disease
There are three stages that gum disease progresses by:
Gingivitis: Improper dental hygiene is the most frequent cause of the earliest stage of gum disease. Gingivitis can either have no symptoms or cause your gums to swell, turn red, or bleed when flossing or brushing. It’s essential to treat gingivitis before it worsens into more severe symptoms.
Periodontitis: If not treated properly, gingivitis can advance to the next stage of gum disease. Periodontitis occurs when plaque reaches below the gumline and produces toxins that trigger inflammation. The gums can recede, and gaps around the teeth can deepen. You might notice this as gums separating from your bottom or top teeth. Infection may start to damage bone and loosen your teeth.
Advanced Periodontitis: During this stage, previous symptoms worsen. Teeth loosen more, bone loss continues, your gums swell, and you may develop temperature sensitivity.
It can be frightening to read about periodontal disease, but you’ll now better understand why dental hygiene is a vital part of your routine. Learning is the first step to making positive changes to your health!
Do I Have Gum Disease?
Gum disease may present without symptoms until it increases in severity. It can cause damage before you notice any symptoms. Because gum disease is difficult to detect, it’s especially important to check in regularly with your dentist or oral hygienist.
Symptoms of gum disease include:
- Gums that are sensitive to touch, swollen or red
- Bleeding during brushing or flossing
- Receding gums, exposing more of the tooth than previously visible
- Frequent bad breath
- Pus coming from gums
- Changes to the fit of your bite or dentures
- A feeling of loose teeth
If you have any of these symptoms, don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re making a positive step by reading up on what you can do to improve your dental health and habits.
How Is Gum Disease Treated?
Proper treatment of your gum disease will depend on the stage it’s in and your health. Fortunately, early-stage gum disease is often reversible by following proper dental hygiene. This change will help prevent plaque buildup and stop early gum disease in its tracks.
Plaque that has hardened into tartar needs professional cleaning to remove, especially when below your gumline. An oral care professional may advise scaling and root planing (SRP). This procedure can be thought of as a deep clean of your teeth to help fight the progression of gum disease.
If your gum disease has been left untreated for some time, it might be necessary for other treatments to remove damaged tissue or help reverse bone loss. In extreme cases, you may require surgical or restorative interventions.
No matter how far your gum disease has progressed, it’s a great idea to have a thorough periodontal assessment and diagnosis on an annual basis.
Did you know: A dentist who specializes in preventing, diagnosing, and treating gum disease is called a periodontist.
Gum Disease Prevention
It can be challenging to start a new routine, especially if your gums are sensitive. We recommend brushing and cleaning between your teeth with interdental brushes, floss, or water flossers.
Gum disease can be prevented by:
- Eating a balanced, healthy diet to support a strong immune system.
- Brushing your teeth for two minutes twice daily and cleaning between your teeth once daily to prevent gum disease before it starts
- Using antiseptic mouth rinse twice daily
- Quitting smoking and using tobacco products
Today is the best time to start new habits and avoid problems in the future. You now have a great understanding of gum disease prevention and treatment to set yourself up with an effective dental routine.