Gums, gums, gums

Gum disease…gingivitis…periodontal disease–these are phrases you may hear at your visit to the dentist, but what do they mean? 

Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is an infection of the gum tissue that supports your teeth. It is caused by plaque, which constantly forms on teeth due to bacteria that live in our mouths. 

Who is at risk for gum disease? Everyone, especially those who do not maintain proper oral hygiene. Factors that increase risk of developing gum disease are: smoking or chewing tobacco, crooked teeth that are harder to keep clean, pregnancy, and diabetes. Gum disease can be painless, but the following warning signs can signal problems: gums that swell and bleed easily; red, tender gums, receding gum lines, bad breath, loose permanent teeth, and a change in your bite. 

If you think you may have gum disease, see your dentist. The sooner the disease is treated, the better the future prognosis. Gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease, is marked by gums that are red, swollen, and bleed easily. Gingivitis is a reversible stage, and can be eliminated by a professional cleaning followed by routine home care, brushing and flossing. Advanced gum disease, called periodontitis, affects 47.2% of adults over the age of 30 in the US. Periodontitis can lead to bone and tissue loss, which can make teeth feel loose, cause them to move or even fall out. 

Gum disease can show no warning signs, which is why routine dental exams are incredibly important. Diligent home care is also essential in preventing periodontal disease from becoming more aggressive. By visiting the dentist regularly and maintaining oral hygiene, you can prevent tooth loss to gum disease. 

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