Did you know that February is National Gum Disease Awareness Month? This is a great time to learn more about the signs and symptoms of gum disease, as well as how to prevent it in the first place.
Gum disease can be very serious if left untreated and even lead to serious conditions like heart disease. Read on to learn how to improve your oral health and have healthy gums.
What is gum disease?
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is an infection caused by bacteria that accumulate on the teeth. The bacteria produce toxins that irritate and inflame the gum tissue surrounding the teeth.
These bacteria also contribute to plaque buildup along the gum line. Plaque is a sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth and often leads to cavities.
Gum disease may also be caused by systemic diseases such as diabetes mellitus or autoimmune diseases. It is a very common condition, and it can cause serious problems if it is not treated.
In the early stage, gum disease is called gingivitis. In this stage of gum disease, a person may experience the gums becoming swollen and red or bleeding gums.
In the more advanced form of gum disease, known as periodontitis, the gum tissues surrounding the teeth begin to pull away from the tooth. This leads to loose teeth and even bone loss.
What are the common symptoms of gum disease?
The common symptoms of gum disease can vary from person to person, but they often include:
- Red or swollen gums
- Bleeding gums
- Gums that are tender or painful to the touch
- Bad breath
- Loose teeth or receding gums
If you experience any of these oral health symptoms, it’s important to see a dentist right away. Left untreated, gum disease can cause serious problems like tooth loss, infection, and even cardiovascular disease.
What are the risk factors for periodontal disease?
There are several risk factors for gum disease according to the CDC. These common risk factors include:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Crooked teeth
- Underlying immuno-deficiencies—e.g., AIDS
- Fillings that have become defective
- Taking medications that cause dry mouth
- Bridges that no longer fit properly
- Female hormonal changes, such as with pregnancy or the use of oral contraceptives
Even genetics can increase your risk of developing gum disease due to certain bacteria being part of your body’s natural flora.
If you have any of these conditions, it is important to be especially vigilant about maintaining good oral hygiene and seeing your dentist regularly.
There are several ways to treat gum disease, depending on the severity, but it is best to prevent it from happening in the first place.
How can you prevent gum disease?
There are several things you can do to prevent gum disease, such as:
- Maintaining good oral hygiene is key to preventing gum disease. Make sure you are brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing at least once a day.
- See your dentist regularly for checkups and your dental hygienist for cleanings. A professional cleaning can remove hardened plaque buildup and tartar that brushing and flossing can’t reach.
- Quit smoking. Smoking increases your risk of developing gum disease, and it makes the condition more difficult to treat.
- If you have diabetes or another medical condition that increases your risk to develop gum disease, be extra vigilant about avoiding plaque and tartar buildup.
- Eat a healthy diet and make sure you’re getting enough Vitamin C and calcium in your daily routine. These nutrients keep your teeth strong and help them stay healthy for longer.
- Avoid sugary drinks and snacks. Many chewing gums have added sugars, too, so opt instead for sugar-free gum.
What happens if gum disease is left untreated?
If periodontal disease goes without treatment, it can cause serious problems in the mouth, including tooth loss, infection, and even cancer. In the very worst-case scenario, gum disease can lead to death. Because of that, it is very important to seek treatment as soon as possible if you think you may have gum disease.
Treating gum disease
If your gums have been affected by gum disease, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible. Your dentist will be able to diagnose the condition and recommend the best course of treatment.
Treatment for gum disease can include deep cleaning by a dental hygienist or periodontist to help remove plaque from your teeth & gums. You may also need to have your tooth root planed down or even see a periodontist to correct the problem if it is severe enough.
Some methods to treat gum disease involve the use of lasers & other techniques such as laser scaling for gum disease.
The treatment that you will need will depend on the severity of your gum disease and any associated problems.
Gum Disease Awareness Month is a great time to learn more about the signs and symptoms of gum disease, as well as how to prevent it in the first place. Remember, prevention starts at home. Gum disease can lead to serious issues if left untreated, so make sure you’re doing everything you can to have healthier gums!
If you have any of the conditions mentioned or are currently suffering from gum disease (or think that may be what’s causing your symptoms), it is important to seek treatment right away.
Make an appointment today with your dentist for a dental checkup! Call our Longview dental office at (903) 758-0189.