Gum disease is more common than you think. In fact, over 80% of all adults have some form of gum disease, and about 50% of those people don’t even know it! Left unchecked, it can lead to tooth loss and other health problems. But with proper hygiene and regular dental checkups at our dentist’s office, you can prevent gum disease and keep your smile healthy.
Here’s everything you need to know about this common oral health condition:
Gum disease is more common than you think
Gum disease is often a silent disease that can go undetected for years. It’s caused when bacteria in your teeth form plaque — a sticky film that forms over your teeth and gums — which then hardens into tartar. The gum tissue around the teeth becomes inflamed as a result of this bacterial growth, causing swelling. This creates pockets between the teeth and gums which can trap food particles, leading to an increased risk of tooth decay and bad breath.
Left untreated, these pockets deepen over time, causing bone loss around your teeth that could lead to tooth loss if not treated promptly.
Is gingivitis the same as gum disease?
Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease in which the tissue surrounding your teeth becomes inflamed and swollen due to bacterial growth. The symptoms include redness, bleeding when brushing or flossing, increased tooth sensitivity, pain when chewing food, and tenderness around the gums. If left untreated, gingivitis may advance into periodontitis — a more severe form of gum disease.
What is periodontitis?
Simply put, periodontitis is an advanced stage of gum disease that can lead to tooth loss and other health problems. It occurs when the gums become inflamed and then begin to pull away from teeth. The bacteria that cause this process are spread through saliva and plaque, which builds up on your teeth if you don’t brush or floss regularly.
In contrast to periodontitis, gingivitis can be reversible with good oral hygiene practices. If you suspect you may have gingivitis or periodontitis, our dentists at Choices for Dentistry, in Chicago, IL can help!
Good news: You can prevent gum disease
While gum disease is a serious condition, you can prevent it by taking simple steps. Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and floss daily to remove plaque and tartar. Use mouthwash as well. Make sure to visit the dentist regularly, too — every six months is recommended — and avoid smoking and drinking alcohol, which can cause gum disease or make it worse if you already have it.
To keep your gums healthy and strong, eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, especially those that are rich in vitamin C (which helps fight infection).
Left untreated, gum disease can cause other health problems
Periodontitis is linked to diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease. Studies have shown that people with gum disease are also three times more likely to develop cardiovascular conditions than those without the condition.
The bacteria from the pockets in your gums can enter your bloodstream through tiny tears in your gums or get trapped under your teeth and lead to chronic inflammation throughout the body. This causes changes in blood clotting that increase one’s risk of developing thrombosis.
Watch out for these symptoms
- Bleeding gums. If your gums bleed when you brush or floss, it could be a sign of gum disease. You may also notice that there is blood in the sink or on your toothbrush after brushing.
- Red, swollen, and tender gums. Swollen and tender gums are another common symptom of gum disease — but this can also happen due to other factors, like pregnancy or medication. So if you experience this symptom, it’s best to consult with your dentist anyway!
- Changes in bite pattern. If you notice that certain teeth are no longer touching each other as well as they did before— or if some teeth have started drifting forward — you might want to schedule an appointment with one of our dentists for further evaluation.
Treatment options for gum disease
Treatment options vary depending on the severity of the condition. Some options are scaling/root planing and perio-protect. At our dental office in Chicago, we provide integrative gum disease treatments, a holistic approach that helps us prevent and treat gum disease and improve overall health.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of gum disease, it’s important to see an experienced dentist. If you are in Chicago, Dr. Gilleran or Dr. Sutherland can conduct a thorough examination and recommend treatment that’s best suited for your needs.
Keeping plaque under control
Keeping your teeth clean regularly is essential to preventing gum disease. Also, don’t overlook the importance of simple dental hygiene habits:
- Brush twice a day in an up-and-down motion (avoid brushing sideways)
- Floss daily to remove food particles from between teeth, where they can mix with bacteria and cause gum disease
- Rinse with an antibacterial mouthwash after meals or at night for 30 seconds
Although serious, gum disease is easily preventable. Keep up a consistent dental care routine, don’t skip your routine cleanings, and watch for any symptoms. If you think you may be suffering from any form of gum disease, our team at Choices in Dentistry is here to help you treat and strengthen the health of your gums!
If you want to learn more about how to care for your gums, just reach out to us at (312) 681-7460 or book an appointment online.