Gum disease, otherwise known as periodontal disease, is a condition where plaque builds up in the mouth between your gums and teeth, and the bacteria in plaque causes your gums to become swollen or inflamed. Periodontal disease can lead to serious issues with the health of your mouth and teeth, and may even contribute to other diseases.
The good news is that gum disease is both treatable and preventable. There are plenty of simple things you can do to prevent gum disease or mitigate the spread, until you're able to see a dentist for further treatment. Here’s what you should know about periodontal disease and gum treatments.
What Causes Periodontal Disease?
According to Smiles of Grand River, a dentist in New Hudson, Michigan, the main cause of gum disease is the bacteria in plaque, which is the sticky substance that typically forms on your teeth after you brush. Typically, plaque will build up below the gum line, which causes your gums to become swollen (inflamed). This swelling pushes the gums away from the teeth, forming “pockets” that can’t be reached by your toothbrush where more bacteria can grow.
Plaque can build up quickly if you don’t brush and floss often enough or skip trips to the dentist. Over time, plaque buildup will calcify or harden, forming a substance called tartar that can’t be removed through brushing alone. Tartar formation worsens the development of gum disease.
What Happens When You Have Gum Disease?
When periodontal disease is left untreated, typically the gums and the supporting bone structure will begin to deteriorate. Bacteria can damage even the healthiest mouths. This leads to gum recession, weakening support for your teeth, and can even lead to tooth loss.
Recently, researchers have begun linking gum disease to other health problems. Findings indicate that periodontal disease may contribute to the risk factor of several conditions, including:
Diabetes: Gum disease in diabetics may make it more difficult for patients to control their blood sugar levels.
Heart disease: Periodontal disease may present an increased risk for clogged arteries, and may worsen an existing heart condition.
Stroke: Due to the increased risk of blocked arteries, gum disease may also increase the risk of stroke.
Respiratory disease: The bacteria that causes periodontal disease may also cause lung infections, or may worsen existing lung infections or conditions, in some cases potentially causing pneumonia.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Periodontal Disease?
As with any condition, knowing what to look for is an important part of prevention or early detection. This is true for periodontal disease as well. Common symptoms and warning signs of gum disease include:
Red, swollen, or tender gums
Receding gums (gums that move away from the teeth)
Bleeding gums while brushing or flossing
Changes in tooth alignment or the way your teeth come together when you close your mouth
Changes in the fit of your dentures
Sensitive teeth (reacting to hot or cold temperatures)
Dull or sharp pain while chewing
Visible pus that surrounds your teeth and gums
How Can You Prevent gum Disease?
While there may be some genetic risk factors, in general gum disease is preventable. Even those with genetic risk for this condition can take steps to mitigate that risk. Fortunately, there are a number of ways you can prevent or reduce your risk for periodontal disease. These include:
Brush your teeth regularly
It’s important to brush your teeth after each meal to remove any plaque or food debris that may be trapped in your mouth. You should also brush your tongue to remove lingering bacteria. Here are some tips for healthier brushing:
Keep two toothbrushes for personal use, alternating between them for each brushing to let one dry while you use the other.
Store toothbrushes upright in an open container, allowing them to dry thoroughly. A moist environment encourages bacteria growth.
Choose a toothbrush that is comfortable for you to use, whether you prefer an electric or manual toothbrush. Both types are equally effective as long as you brush properly.
Floss and scrape
Flossing is just as important as brushing when it comes to removing plaque and bacteria. Be sure to floss regularly between each tooth at least once a day to remove particles and plaque that your toothbrush can’t reach.
You can also discourage bacteria growth in your mouth by scraping your tongue. You can use pretty much anything that is not sharp, such as a popsicle stick or tongue depressor, a small spoon, your toothbrush, or a tongue scraper. Scrape 10 to 15 times from back to front to remove bacteria.
Swish your mouth clean
Use mouthwash to help kill any lingering bacteria and improve your breath. You can also use an occasional bacteria-killing swish of either half hydrogen peroxide, half water or baking soda and water a few times a week to help inhibit bacteria growth.
See your dentist regularly
Most people should see a dentist or periodontist at least once every six months to get periodic deep cleaning, check for potential health issues, and maintain healthy teeth and gums. Your dentist can help you formulate a plan for gum disease prevention based on your age, health, and risk factors for developing periodontal disease.
Gum disease can be a serious health risk, but there are simple steps you can take to minimize your risk. Keep these tips for preventing gum issues in mind and incorporate good mouth care into your daily routine, so your teeth and gums can enjoy a long and healthy life.
By Lizzie Weakley
All rights reserved. Any reproducing of this article must have the author name and all the links intact.