When considering your health, many families forget about their mouths. Even if you schedule regular dental checkups, you may not be aware that the health of your gums is equally as important as your teeth. What’s more, oral health, or lack thereof, is directly related to the rest of your body.
Keeping your gums healthy is the smartest thing you can do to prevent a number of issues in your mouth. Here are few things you need to know about gum disease, the reasons it develops, and how you can prevent it.
What is Gum Disease?
It is best to first understand all gum related issues. Plaque is the sticky coating that dentists often remove from your teeth during a dental cleaning. Plaque contains bacteria and is the root cause of gum disorders and diseases.
The earliest stage of gum disease is when a buildup of bacteria-laden plaque causes inflammation of your gums. This inflammation produces toxins that lift the gums, creating pockets against your teeth and allowing that bacteria to lodge itself below the gum line and into the roots of your teeth.
Also referred to as periodontal disease, gum disease is when that inflammation causes infection. The infection affects your tooth roots, producing toxins that eventually cause the gums to pull away from the teeth. As a result, the roots become weakened and the teeth are more likely to fall out.
The most serious form of gum disease is called periodontitis. Tooth loss is often the biggest concern when considering this sort of gum disease but, when severe, it can be a risk factor for greater issues like heart and lung disease.
Will I Recognize the Symptoms of Gum Disease?
The first stage of gum disease is something called gingivitis, noticeably red, swollen, or irritated gums. You may also notice your gums receding, allowing more of your physical tooth to be exposed. Gums suffering from gingivitis will often bleed when you brush and floss your teeth.
Additional signs of gum disease include:
* Toothaches or tender gums
* Perpetual bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth
* Loosening or separating of permanent teeth
* Changes in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth
* Changes in the way partials or full dentures fit
What Causes Gum Disease?
The most obvious cause of periodontal disease is bad oral hygiene, not taking proper care of your teeth and gums. Other contributing factors include:
* Drinking acidic sodas and coffee
* Chewing tobacco and smoking
* Crooked teeth that make flossing difficult
* Genetics or disorders such as diabetes
* Certain medications including but not limited to steroids, calcium antagonists, and oral contraceptives
* Hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause
How Do I Prevent Gum Disease?
The health of your gums and teeth go hand in hand. Proper oral hygiene is the first step in warding off gum inflammation and disease, keeping your teeth strong. There are a number of simple steps you can take right now to ensure your gums stay healthy. They include:
Brushing and flossing: It may feel repetitive to hear more about oral hygiene practices, but daily maintenance eliminates bacteria along the gum line. Brushing teeth twice a day along with flossing is the key to a healthy smile.
Avoid smoking and chewing tobacco: Smokers are the most likely to suffer some form of gum disease. Nicotine constricts blood vessels and decreases circulation, processes that usually keep gums healthy. Additionally, smoking induces plaque buildup and tobacco held against your gums increases already growing pockets against your teeth.
Watch what you eat: Diet is an important factor in your health, and your gums are no exception. Avoiding surgery snacks is the most obvious way to avoid buildup and decay issues, especially since sugar advances bacteria. Eating plenty of vitamins and minerals will also help keep gum tissue healthy.
Regular dental cleanings: It is recommended that you schedule dental check-ups every 6 months. Doing so helps to stay on top of any symptoms, and possibly curb them before they worsen.
See a periodontist: While regular check-ups are a great way to stay on top of your dental health, seeing a specialist is a smart approach to preventing gum disease. Periodontists are trained to identify the early signs of gum disease, even before symptoms develop.