Visiting the dentist isn’t a top priority for everyone. It’s often avoided because it’s uncomfortable or because it’s too expensive. However, ignoring your dental health can lead to some serious consequences and end up costing you more in the long run.
In this blog post, we will discuss gum disease, a preventable disease that, if left untreated, can lead to tooth loss and other health problems. We’ll discuss what gum disease is, its causes, and how to prevent it.
What Is Gum Disease?
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a serious infection of the gums that can lead to bleeding gums, tooth loss, and other health problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 47.2% of adults aged 30 years and older have some form of gum disease.
What Causes Gum Disease?
Gum disease is caused by a sticky film of bacteria called plaque. If plaque is not removed, it turns into tartar (calculus), which is much harder to remove. Plaque and tartar can spread to the gum line and start to irritate the gums, causing them to become red, swollen, and tender. This is called gingivitis, which is the early stage of gum disease.
If gingivitis is not treated, it can progress into periodontitis, which is a more serious form of gum disease. Periodontitis is a severe gum infection that occurs when the bacteria in plaque and tartar begin to damage the bone supporting your teeth. The gums begin to pull away from the teeth, forming spaces (pockets) between the teeth and gums that become infected. As periodontitis progresses, these spaces deepen, and more gum tissue and bone are destroyed. The teeth can eventually become loose and may have to be removed.
Symptoms of Gum Disease
Gum disease is often painless, so it can be difficult to know if you have it. The early stage of gum disease (gingivitis) is usually marked by red, swollen, or bleeding gums. However, gingivitis does not always progress to periodontitis.
More advanced symptoms of periodontitis include
- Receding gums
- Loose teeth
- Changes in the fit of partial dentures
- Persistent bad breath
- Sensitive teeth
- Swollen gums
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to see a dentist as soon as possible.
Who Is at Risk for Developing Gum Disease?
There are several factors that can increase your risk of developing gum disease, including
- Poor oral hygiene: This is the number one cause of gum disease. Plaque must be removed every day by brushing and flossing. If plaque hardens into tartar, it will irritate the gums and cause them to become inflamed.
- Smoking: Smoking or chewing tobacco products decreases the amount of saliva in your mouth, which leaves you more susceptible to plaque buildup because saliva helps wash away food and bacteria. Smoking also increases your risk for other oral health problems, such as bad breath, tooth decay, and oral cancer.
- Hormonal changes in women: Women are more likely than men to develop gum disease during puberty, pregnancy, menopause, or when taking oral contraceptives because hormonal changes make the gums more sensitive and susceptible to inflammation.
- Certain health conditions: People with diabetes or HIV/AIDS are at increased risk for developing gum disease because these conditions decrease the body’s ability to fight off infection. Other medical conditions such as cancer or heart disease can also increase your risk for developing gum disease because they decrease saliva production or reduce blood flow to the gums.
- Medications: Some medications can cause dry mouth or irritation of the gums, which makes you more susceptible to plaque buildup and gum disease. These medications include certain antidepressants, antihistamines, painkillers, high blood pressure medications, cancer treatments (chemotherapy or radiation), etc. Be sure to talk with your doctor or dentist about any side effects of your medications that may affect your oral health.
Family history: If you have family members with gum disease (i.e., parents or grandparents), you are more likely to develop it yourself because there may be genetic factors involved.
How To Prevent and Treat Gum Disease
The best way to prevent gum disease is to practice good oral hygiene habits every day—brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and floss at least once a day! Regular visits to your dentist or dental hygienist every six months for a professional cleaning and dental exam are very important. Warning signs of gum disease can be caught and treated before they progress into something more serious.
Gum disease treatment will depend on the severity of the disease. In the early stages (gingivitis), a professional cleaning and good oral hygiene at home are usually all that is needed to treat gingivitis and return the gums to a healthy state. If gum disease progresses to periodontitis, more extensive treatment may be necessary, including deep cleanings, antibiotics, and in some cases, surgery.
If it’s been a while since your last visit to the dentist, contact Dewitt Dental Associates to schedule an appointment. We offer comprehensive dental care for patients of all ages and can help you achieve and maintain good oral health. Call (303) 321-5656 or complete the online booking form.
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