If your dentist has said you are at risk of developing gum disease, you are not alone. Many people in the U.S. suffer from some form of gum disease, and it can range from simple inflammation of the gum to more serious forms that can cause tooth loss. By better understanding this disease and its signs, you can take the necessary precautions to prevent it.
Gum Disease Overview
Gum disease is a type of infection that affects the bones and tissues that support and surround the teeth. It is also referred to as periodontal disease, and it develops when the bacteria found in plaque grows along the teeth and gums. When the plaque is not removed, it can form a hard substance known as tarter that further irritates the gums.
There are two main types of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is simple gum inflammation caused by bacteria. This is a mild form of gum disease that may be reversed with proper oral hygiene, including regular brushing, flossing, and trips to the dentist. However, if it is not reversed, periodontitis may develop, and the gums may begin to pull away from the teeth to form infected spaces called pockets. If left untreated, the teeth could loosen and even fall out.
Gum Disease Symptoms
Do you think that you may have gum disease? If so, there are a few symptoms that may indicate the presence of this condition:
- Chronic bad breath
- Sensitive teeth
- Bleeding or painful gums
- Swollen and red gums
- Loose teeth
- Painful chewing
- Gums that appear to be receding
There are a variety of risk factors that can make you more susceptible to developing gum disease. Smoking is one of the most significant factors associated with developing this condition, but diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and other illnesses can also have a negative impact on gum health. Certain medications that restrict the flow of saliva can also make your mouth vulnerable to gum disease and other problematic infections.
Preventing Gum Disease
When it comes to preventing gum disease, you are your mouth’s first line of defense. It is your responsibility to keep the gums free of bacteria by brushing and flossing regularly. An antibacterial mouthwash or rinse can also be helpful in keeping bacteria levels low, and avoiding sugary foods can also help.
Your dentist also plays an important role in keeping your mouth healthy, as he or she will remove the main cause of the problem, which is plaque that builds up on the teeth. Your dentist and dental hygienist will clean the affected area to remove plaque and tartar. If you already have pockets developing, scaling, which is a deep cleaning process that reaches all the way into the pocket, will also be completed.
During your dental appointment, your dentist will also look for other possible causes of plaque, such as crowns or fillings that have been loosened. You may also have X-rays taken to check to see if bone loss has occurred, and if your disease has progressed to a severe level, surgery may be required. However, as long as you are visiting with your dentist regularly and are doing your best to care for your teeth at home, gum disease should not progress to this stage.