Periodontal (gum) disease can lead to serious infection and even loss of teeth; but it can easily be prevented. Here are seven things you can do to prevent gum disease — or stop it in its tracks if you already have it.
- Understand the causes of gum disease. Diseases of periodontal (from the root words meaning “around” and “tooth”) or gum tissues start with bacteria collecting on your teeth, in the areas where the teeth and gums meet. The bacteria, called plaque or biofilm, irritate the surrounding tissues and cause them to become inflamed and swollen, and to bleed easily on contact. This condition is called gingivitis.
- Brush correctly and effectively. Brushing twice a day is not just to polish your teeth to pearly whiteness. An important reason to brush is to remove the daily coating of plaque from your teeth. At your next dental appointment, ask me or our staff to show you the most effective way to brush.
- Floss every day. Daily flossing removes the plaque that settles in between your teeth, in places where your brush can't reach.
- Have regular professional cleanings. Our hygienist will remove plaque that you missed by brushing and flossing. This plaque hardens into a material called calculus or tartar. In a professional cleaning your hygienist uses special tools to scrape these materials away. The hygienist also measures the distances between your gums and teeth to make sure that inflamed gums have not separated from the teeth, forming pockets in which the bacteria continue to grow.
- Recognize the signs of developing gum disease. These signs include any of the following: gums that bleed easily when you brush or floss; bad breath; red or swollen gums; and sensitive teeth.
- Stop smoking. If you haven't stopped smoking for your heart or lungs, here is another reason to quit. Smokers are more likely to develop periodontal disease than nonsmokers. Smoking masks the effects of gum disease, so smokers are less likely to notice the symptoms, allowing the disease to progress to a greater degree before they seek help.
- See our office right away if your teeth become loose or your gums become red and swollen. If inflamed gum tissues do not heal, the disease continues to progress. The tissues that attach your teeth to your bone, called ligaments, are lost as pockets deepen as the infection advances. Your gums may also become red, swollen, and painful. As the infection gets worse it eats away the bone around your teeth, causing the teeth to loosen and fall out.
So start with prevention and stop periodontal disease in its early stages.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about gum disease. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Warning Signs of Periodontal (Gum) Disease.”