Healthy teeth are important, but don’t overlook your gums. Gum disease affects almost half of American adults and can lead to many long-term health problems. Understanding the signs and symptoms of gum disease is the best way to insure you keep a clean bill of oral health.
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is caused by bacteria in the mouth that, over time, form plaque and tartar. Once tartar has formed, a professional dental cleaning is needed to remove it.
If too much tartar builds up, the gums may begin to shrink away from the teeth. Ultimately, this can lead to teeth breaking down or needing to be removed.
Stages of Gum Disease
The first stage of gum disease is gingivitis, which is gum inflammation that results in bleeding. Often reversible, gingivitis can be treated with a combination of daily brushing and flossing, but only in combination with visits to the dentist for professional cleaning.
The second, more severe, stage is called periodontitis. This is when the gums begin to pull away, which leads to small pockets between teeth that become the perfect breeding ground for more bacteria. Periodontitis is a serious condition that requires extensive treatment.
Do I Have Gum Disease?
There are many tell-tale symptoms of gum disease. Consider seeing your dentist and asking about treatments for gum disease if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Receding gum line
- Sensitive teeth
- Pain when chewing
- Swollen gums
- Bleeding gums
- Loose teeth
What Causes Gum Disease?
Gum disease is caused by excessive buildup of bacteria around the gum line. It is particularly likely to occur if you do not brush your teeth twice daily, floss regularly and receive dental cleanings every six months.
Some people are genetically more likely to have gum disease. Gum disease can also result from smoking, diabetes, certain medications, stress and grinding your teeth.
Treatments for Gum Disease
Caught early, your dentist will be able to treat gum disease with minimal discomfort. But as the disease progresses, more invasive treatments may be required. Some of the most common treatments for gum disease include:
- Dental Cleanings. The single best way to prevent gum disease is to go to your dentist for a cleaning. If you have any signs or symptoms of gum disease, it is highly recommended that you schedule an appointment immediately.
- Scaling and Root Planing. Scaling and root planing involves carefully scraping away all plaque and tartar from around your teeth and gum lines. Then, rough surfaces are smoothed down to prevent bacteria from building up again. This procedure is usually done in your regular dentist’s office, and often uses local anesthetic to reduce discomfort.
- Surgery. Oral surgery is necessary for severe cases. Sometimes, the gums are lifted surgically so that tartar can be manually removed from underneath them. If bone has been eaten away by bacteria, then new bone material must be grafted onto the gums to allow the bone to heal.
Partner with Your Dentist to Prevent Gum Disease
A healthy mouth helps keep the rest of your body healthy. Luckily, the usual strategy for keeping your teeth clean — brushing, flossing, and visiting the dentist — is the best way to prevent gum disease, too. Whether you have early signs of gum disease, or if you want to be sure to prevent it, it’s imperative that you seek regular cleanings from your dentist.