We all know how important it is to brush our teeth to prevent cavities, but taking care of our gums to prevent gum disease is equally important. Unfortunately, not all people do.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report found that 47.2% (nearly half!) of Americans age 30 and over have some form of gum disease, whether they’re aware of it or not.
Also called periodontal disease, gum disease is a sneaky condition that can go undetected yet cause serious problems for our oral as well as overall health. Here are eight things you need to know about the disease and why treating gum disease is so important.
1. Poor Oral Health Usually Leads to Gum Disease
Gum disease is an inflammatory bacterial disease usually caused when a build-up of plague–the sticky film created by food starches and sugars–irritates the gingiva, the portion of your gums at the base of your teeth. This early stage of the disease is called gingivitis.
If plague isn’t regularly removed by home care and regular dental cleanings, the irritation it creates leads to periodontitis, the more advanced stage of gum disease.
The irritation causes gums to recede, creating pockets where the gums pull away from the teeth. If left untreated, the inflammation eventually affects the bone, leading to loose teeth and tooth loss.
Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to gum disease. Brushing your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush, flossing daily, and visiting your dentist every six months for a cleaning and exam is the best way to prevent gum disease.
2. Early Gum Disease Symptoms are Usually Painless
Most people put off visiting a doctor or dentist until they experience pain. But gum disease in its early stage, gingivitis, is usually relatively painless so people may be unaware they have a problem.
There are warning signs of gingivitis, however. Here are the most common ones that you need to be aware of:
- Bleeding gums when you brush or floss your teeth
- Swollen or puffy gums
- Gums that look dark red, not pale pink
- Tender gums
- Bad breath
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you should make an appointment to see your dentist right away.
3. Gum Disease During Its Early Stage is Reversible
Some people may think that gingivitis requires surgery, but it’s actually the easier stage of gum disease to treat and is easily reversible, usually with the proper at-home care.
Your dentist will make recommendations to treat gingivitis that may include having a deep cleaning done and using a prescription mouthwash to help remove more bacteria from your gums. Some people may need to visit the dentist more often than twice a year to stay on top of any gum issues.
4. Some People Are at Greater Risk
Certain lifestyle habits and genetics put some people at greater risk of developing gum disease. Here are some common factors that may increase your risk:
- If you’re 65 or older
- If you’re a smoker or use tobacco
- If you’re using medications that cause dry mouth
- If you have type 2 diabetes
- If you’re stressed often
- If you are pregnant
Talk to your dentist if you fall under any of these categories, as they may require more preventative care. Some people may also inherit a genetic disposition towards developing the disease.
5. Gum Disease Can Affect Your Overall Health
Why should gum disease be taken so seriously? It’s because it doesn’t just affect your mouth, but can have a serious effect on other areas of your body.
Gum disease is suspected to play a role in many serious health conditions from hardened arteries to low birth rates. The culprit is the inflammation it causes and the build-up of bacteria which can easily spread to other parts of the body via the bloodstream.
Taking care of your gums and teeth is definitely something you want to be diligent about to contribute to your overall health and well being.
6. Flossing Helps Prevent Gum Disease
There’s a reason why dentists and hygienists pester you to floss: it helps prevent gum disease. Brushing alone only removes plaque from approximately 60% of your teeth’s surfaces. Flossing helps remove plaque and bacteria from in between teeth and slightly below the gumline.
If you really cannot stand flossing, at least invest in a water flosser that helps flush debris away from in between teeth, or try flossing tape or interdental brushes. Rinsing with an antibacterial mouthwash can help remove plaque as well.
Thoroughly cleaning in between teeth should be done every day.
7. A Healthy Diet May Help Prevent Gum Disease
Several studies have suggested a possible connection between eating certain foods with a decreased risk of developing gum disease. One such study found that Japanese people age 75 and older who ate foods high in beta-carotene and vitamins C and E helped reverse or stave off gum disease.
While more research is needed, eating a well-balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables, calcium-containing foods, and foods and beverages low in sugar and acid is one of the best ways to encourage gum health.
8. Treating Gum Disease Prevents Tooth Loss
As mentioned earlier, gingivitis treatment is relatively easy and most of the responsibility falls on the patient to practice good at-home oral care. This will help the disease from progressing and save your teeth.
Once the disease becomes moderate or severe, surgery is needed to prevent tooth loss. There are a variety of periodontics services and treatments available today.
Traditional gum surgery requires cutting the gums to access the tooth’s roots so the area can be thoroughly cleaned and the bone shaped. It doesn’t sound pleasant, but it is necessary to save teeth.
A newer method with a lot of promise is LANAP laser gum surgery, which uses lasers to regenerate tissue. Not only does LANAP kill bacteria and remove the infection, but it stimulates the body’s ability to regenerate the bone surrounding the teeth.
LANAP is an FDA-approved treatment and may be a less painful option than traditional surgery.
Your Dentist Can Help Prevent Gum Disease
Preventing gum disease may be mostly up to your oral hygiene habits, but it’s also equally important to visit your dentist every six months for a complete check-up and cleaning. They can assess the health of your gums and let you know if you have gingivitis or need to visit a specialist for treating gum disease.
Contact us to schedule an appointment. We can help keep your gums and smile healthy!