If you have gum disease, you are not alone. Many U.S. adults currently have some form of the disease. Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is a bacterial infection that causes a chronic inflammation of the gums and surrounding tissue. It is the major cause of about 70 percent of adult tooth loss, affecting nearly 80 percent of people at some point in their life. Gum disease includes gingivitis (the early stage of gum disease) and periodontitis (a more advanced stage of gum disease)
What happens during gum disease?
Plaque, a sticky, colorless bacteria-filled film that constantly forms on the teeth is the primary cause of gum disease. If one does not remove plaque each day by brushing and flossing, it hardens into a rough, porous substance known as tartar or calculus, which can be difficult to remove. The bacteria in plaque produce toxins that irritate the gums, causing inflammation and gingivitis.
These toxins cause the breakdown of the gum tissue, causing gums to pull away from the teeth, and creating pockets that fill with even more plaque, bacteria and toxins. As the disease progresses, the pockets grow deeper, and the plaque and bacteria move further down the tooth root, destroying supporting bone. The affected teeth may loosen and eventually fall out or require extraction.
In its early stages, periodontitis can be recognized by signs such as:
- Tooth sensitivity
- Red, swollen gums
- Sensitive gums
- Gums that easily bleed when scratched
Unfortunately, genetics can contribute to the risk of developing gum disease. Gum disease prevention practices will help to reduce that risk. Age, smoking, and diet are also big factors that weigh into the risk for gum disease. Quitting smoking is a great step toward preventing detrimental health problems, like periodontal disease. Learning how to reduce the chance of getting gum disease is important to oral health. Here are some helpful ways to protect oneself:
Have an Annual Periodontal Assessment
The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) says periodontitis in the U.S. may be much more widespread than originally thought. The AAP advises all adults to get an annual comprehensive periodontal evaluation (CPE) to spot any indications of gum infections.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
If someone’s diet lacks sufficient nutrients, then the immune system can weaken, making it easier for bacteria to overpower the body’s natural defenses. The gums can also be a starting point from which microbes launch an onslaught on the rest of the body.
Establish a regular routine of oral hygiene
A daily routine of keeping the gums and teeth healthy, including brushing and flossing, is vital in preventing periodontitis.The American Dental Association (ADA) says you should brush your teeth and tongue each morning and before bed. It recommends fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush – a hard-bristled brush can damage the gums and wear down teeth.
Gum disease is one of the most common oral health concerns in part because this condition can go undetected for many years. Gum disease patients can take control of their oral health with the help of dentists who specialize in periodontics. However, prevention remains a powerful tool in the fight against this disease.
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