We’ve all heard about gum disease and we all know it’s not good. But how much do you actually know about gum disease? What exactly is it? What are the causes? What are the symptoms and how can you avoid it?
So let’s start at the beginning…
What is gum disease?
Gum disease is a very common condition where the gums become swollen or infected. The early stages of gum disease are widely known as Gingivitis.
Gingivitis isn’t a serious condition and can be easily treated. However, if left untreated, Gingivitis can progress to become Periodontitis. If Periodontitis is left untreated, it could ultimately result in the loss of teeth as well as a great deal of pain.
What are the symptoms of gum disease?
Common symptoms of gum disease in its most early stage (gingivitis) are bad breath along with red and swollen gums. People with gum disease also tend to experience bleeding gums after flossing or brushing their teeth.
If the condition has progressed to Periodontitis, the tissues that support your teeth and hold them in place will be affected. You may also experience damage to your bone jaw and small cavities can open up between the gum and teeth. Your teeth can ultimately become loose and could eventually fall out. Other common symptoms of Periodontitis can include bad breath (halitosis), an unpleasant taste in your mouth, loose teeth (which can make eating food difficult and painful) and gum abscesses or pus under your gums or teeth.
Although Gingivitis and Periodontitis are the most common forms of gum disease, there is also a rare condition called Acute Necrotising Ulcerative Gingivitis which can develop suddenly. Some symptoms of ANUG include bleeding, painful gums, ulcers, receding gums in between teeth, bad breath, a metallic taste in your mouth, excess saliva, difficulty swallowing or talking and a high temperature or fever. If you believe you are experiencing ANUG, you should go and see a dentist as soon as possible.
Gum disease has also been linked with an increased risk of a number of other health conditions. Although there is no clear evidence to suggest that it directly causes these things, people with gum disease could potentially be at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, lung infections and, if affected during pregnancy, premature labour and giving birth to a baby with a low birth weight.
What causes gum disease?
There are a number of factors that can cause gum disease but the most common factor is poor oral hygiene.
Gum disease is primarily caused by a build-up of plaque which is a sticky substance that contains bacteria. Some of the bacteria are harmless but others are extremely harmful to your gums. If you don’t regularly remove the plaque from your mouth by brushing your teeth, it can build up and irritate your gums. This irritation leads to redness, bleeding, soreness and swelling.
Consuming a lot of sugary or starchy food and drink which are high in carbohydrates can also contribute to gum disease. When you consume these types of foods and drinks, the bacteria found in plaque turns the carbohydrates into the energy they need to survive. The plaque also produces acid which breaks down your tooth’s surface and ultimately causes tooth decay, which of course can lead to it falling out completely.
Other things linked to gum disease are smoking, old age, a family history of gum disease, diabetes, malnutrition and stress. Many people with a weakened immune system from conditions such as HIV and AIDS or treatment like chemotherapy are also at higher risk of developing gum disease.
How to prevent gum disease
The best way to prevent gum disease is by having and maintaining good oral hygiene. Regularly brushing and flossing your teeth to remove plaque is essential. Regular dental check-ups and teeth cleanings are also key to avoiding or detecting any issues early to prevent more severe issues.
Finding a local and credible dentist to help ensure that your dental hygiene is in tip-top shape is therefore key. So whether you consult an Orthodontist or a dental hygienist, make sure you check in with the professionals once in a while to keep your teeth in the best possible condition.
Gum disease is a common condition which can be easily treated. To minimise the risk of developing gum disease and to practice good oral hygiene in general, you should brush and floss your teeth twice a day, every day.
With good dental hygiene and regular dental check-ups, you can avoid gum disease altogether but in the event that you do develop the condition, it is imperative that you treat it quickly and effectively. Failure to treat gum disease in the early stages could result in more severe symptoms like tooth loss.