Periodontal disease is common among adults. In fact, approximately half of all adults over 30 have some form of gum disease. Early diagnosis and treatment are important. In the earliest stages, periodontal disease may be reversible with proper treatment. Untreated, the condition contributes to additional oral health problems. To further explain this potentially devastating disease, Dr. Marilyn Jones of Houston Biological Dentist in Houston, TX answers the question, “How do you get gum disease?”
Many people only consider their teeth when brushing, but the gums play a crucial role. These soft, pink supportive tissues at the base of the teeth form a protective seal around the teeth to keep bacteria and food out. Healthy gums are light to coral pink. Periodontal disease is an infection of the gums. Symptoms may include red gums, bleeding gums, bad breath, loose teeth, and receding gums.
Causes of Gum Disease
Although we know it is a common and serious problem, many of us have wondered how you get gum disease. Our mouths are full of bacteria. These bacteria feed off the food particles on our teeth. When these substances come together, it forms a sticky plaque on the teeth. Good oral habits such as brushing and flossing help remove plaque. When the plaque is not cleaned off in a timely fashion, it hardens into tartar that is not easily removed. Professional cleaning by a dental hygienist is the only way to get tartar off the teeth.
Gum disease is caused by plaque accumulation on the teeth. Tartar and bacteria that spread into the gums cause redness and inflammation, the beginning stages of gum disease. This stage is known as gingivitis and can be reversed if caught and treated early. Untreated, gingivitis leads to periodontitis. At this point, the gums start to recede causing gaps around the teeth. These gaps allow bacteria to accumulate in the pockets leading to infections. Without proper treatment, gum disease continues to progress into advanced periodontitis and tooth loss is possible.
Although poor oral hygiene is the leading culprit behind the periodontal disease, there are risk factors that may increase your chances of developing the disease. Smoking is the most significant. It also may interfere with the effectiveness of periodontal therapy. Additional risk factors include the following:
- Certain medications that reduce saliva
- Immune disorders
- Illnesses such as AIDS
Steps to avoid gum disease
Periodontal disease can be devastating, but it can be avoided. Prevention is the preferred method of treatment. By maintaining a good oral health regimen and visiting the dentist regularly, you can preserve the health of your teeth and gums. Consider the following tips to keep your mouth healthy:
- At a minimum, brush your teeth twice daily for two minutes each time. If possible, brush after eating but at least in the morning and before going to bed. Brush at a 45-degree angle to the gums. Be sure to clean all surfaces of the teeth.
- Floss at least once daily. Flossing removes plaque and particles from between the teeth. Gently slide the floss between the teeth and curve around the base of the tooth. Do not force the floss as it could cut the gum tissue.
- Rinse the teeth with mouthwash or an oral irrigator. Rinsing removes particles from the gumline or in hard-to-reach places that brushing and flossing may have missed.
- Replace your toothbrush or toothbrush head every three to six months. Brushing with broken bristles is ineffective.
- Visit your dentist twice per year or as recommended for routine cleanings. Individuals with certain dental conditions may require more frequent cleanings.
Routine dental visits are a crucial piece of good oral health and avoiding gum disease. Unless otherwise directed, these visits are scheduled every six months. This precise placement ensures potential problems cannot escalate and bacteria cannot cause major issues. Issues that do arise are generally small, so they are handled efficiently and effectively. The same holds true with gum disease. If signs of periodontal disease appear between six-month visits, the condition is treated before it escalates.
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