When we think about keeping our mouths healthy, we most often focus on preventing cavities. Cavity prevention is important but it’s equally if not more important to prevent gum disease. Gentle Dental Center provides education about gum disease, treatment and causes, during every patient visit.
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research describes gum disease like this:
“Periodontal (gum) disease is an infection of the tissues that hold your teeth in place. It’s typically caused by poor brushing and flossing habits that allow plaque—a sticky film of bacteria—to build up on the teeth and harden. In advanced stages, periodontal disease can lead to sore, bleeding gums; painful chewing problems; and even tooth loss.”
Symptoms of Gum Disease
Gum disease doesn’t always cause any pain, especially in the early stages. That might seem like a good thing, especially when you compare it to the discomfort of a toothache!
Unfortunately, it also means you might have gum disease and not know it. If you go too long between your dental checkups, gum disease could progress and you wouldn’t even realize it, especially if you’re not checking for (or are perhaps unable to notice) the mildest symptoms.
Here are a few symptoms of gum disease. If you notice them in yourself or a family member, make an appointment to see your dentist. Remember that although gum disease is common in adults, it can also occur in children, especially if they have not yet developed good oral hygiene habits.
- Red, tender, swollen or bleeding gums
- Ongoing bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth
- Receding gums
- Pain when chewing
- New gaps between your teeth
- Loose teeth
- Changes in how your teeth bite together
Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease, characterized by milder symptoms like swelling of the gums. They might be tender to the touch, or they could bleed when you brush or floss. At this point, a thorough dental cleaning and an ongoing commitment to brushing and flossing can usually bring your mouth back to a healthy state.
If you let it go on, the gum disease may advance to the point that you require surgery, or you could end up losing teeth. Furthermore, what happens in your mouth could impact the rest of your body. The Mayo Clinic notes that “…some research suggests that the bacteria responsible for periodontitis can enter your bloodstream through gum tissue, possibly affecting your heart, lungs and other parts of your body. For example, periodontitis may be linked with respiratory disease, rheumatoid arthritis, coronary artery disease or stroke.”
Preventing Gum Disease
Luckily, the good oral hygiene habits that help you prevent cavities will also help you prevent gum disease. Brush your teeth twice a day, floss regularly, and visit your dentist for regular checkups and professional cleanings. (You should brush your teeth for two minutes each time. Set a timer to ensure you stick with it for an appropriate length of time.) Smokers are at an increased risk for gum disease. Protecting your teeth and gums is another good reason to stop smoking.
There are additional risk factors that could increase your chances of developing gum disease, including pregnancy, certain medications, genetic influences, and certain diseases like diabetes. We don’t always have control over these types of risk factors, but we do maintain control over how we care for our mouths. Proper care will go a long way in preventing gum disease, even if you have additional risk factors.
While the general population benefits from professional dental cleanings every six to 12 months, Mayo Clinic adds that additional risk factors may require you to have more frequent cleanings. Talk to your provider at Gentle Dental Center to determine the best plan for the health of your teeth and gums.