Research shows that gum disease is very common, and the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. Nearly half of all adults aged 30 and older have some type of gum disease, and this number jumps to 70% of all adults when you increase the age to 65 years and older. But here’s the good news: Gum disease is also easily preventable!
What is gum disease? Also called periodontal disease, the definition of the condition is quite simple. Gum disease is a serious infection of the tissue that holds your teeth in place. If left untreated, it can spread to the bones that support your teeth and lead to tooth loss.
However, being diagnosed with gum disease is not a diagnosis of tooth loss. There are multiple right-in-your-dentist-office treatment options for gum disease, some of which can fully reverse all damage done! Discover more about the disease and how it can be prevented.
Causes of Gum Disease
Many of the causes of gum disease relate to everyday habits that allow plaque and foreign bacteria to build up as a film on your teeth. These include poor brushing and flossing habits, as well as smoking and vaping. So if bacteria doesn’t linger on your teeth and soft tissue long enough to cause an infection, you have a reasonably low risk of developing gum disease.
That said, not all gum disease triggers are habitual. Other risk factors include health conditions like diabetes and AIDS, medications and illnesses that reduce saliva, menopause or pregnancy, and even a family history of dental diseases. For this reason, it’s important to discuss your health history with your dentist, so everyone is aware of potential gum disease risk.
Gingivitis vs. Periodontitis
Gingivitis is an early-stage gum disease that primarily consists of gum inflammation. A combination of timely professional treatment and great at-home oral care can entirely reverse the effects of gingivitis. This inflammation develops after plaque builds up on your teeth for long enough that it becomes tartar and irritates the soft tissue of your gums. While plaque can still be removed with at-home care, including daily brushing and flossing, tartar can only be removed by a professional dental cleaning.
Ongoing and untreated gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, a more advanced gum disease marked by the development of pockets between your gums and your teeth. These pockets can easily fill with plaque, tartar, and bacteria, ultimately leading to deep infections below your gum line. At this point, only a professional cleaning can remove the tartar build-up and stop the progression of periodontal disease. However, if periodontitis is left untreated, it can destroy the bones that support your teeth, resulting in loose teeth and/or tooth loss.
Symptoms of Gum Disease
Some earlier symptoms of gingivitis include bad breath and bleeding, swollen, or tender gums. Healthy gums should be both firm to the touch and pink in color, so any variation from this might indicate gum disease.
As gum disease advances towards periodontitis, symptoms can expand to include painful chewing, sensitive teeth, new spaces between your teeth, pus between your gums and teeth, and receding gums that make your teeth look longer than normal. The most extreme symptom of periodontitis is loose teeth, followed by tooth loss.
Preventing Gum Disease
At-home oral care is critical in preventing gum disease, especially if genetic predispositions or health conditions increase your likelihood of developing it. We recommend brushing your teeth twice daily, preferably with a fluoride toothpaste. Still brushing with last year’s toothbrush? It’s time for a new one! Replace your toothbrush at least every three months, as frayed, worn-out bristles won’t clean your teeth as well as a new brush will.
Be sure to floss regularly, preferably every time you brush your teeth, and, if relevant, quit smoking and/or vaping. Lastly, add an antibacterial mouthwash into your oral care routine; this will help prevent gingivitis while also fighting bad breath and plaque buildup.
Whether you experience any symptoms of gum disease or not, maintain routine dental care visits to keep on top of both check-ups and cleanings. Treatment options are available for gum disease at nearly every stage, but treatment tends to go more smoothly when we can diagnose earlier in the disease’s development. There are various treatment options, from controlling bacterial growth to undergoing surgeries to restoring supportive tissues. The Rhoades Family Dentistry team will examine your current condition and suggest next steps for your care and treatment.
Are you experiencing some of these symptoms?
At Rhoades, every dental check-up includes an examination for any inflammation that could be a sign of gum disease. If you notice any symptoms of gingivitis or periodontitis between your routine appointments, reach out to our team to schedule an appointment as soon as possible.