Gum disease is almost always preventable. You may read statistics—like the fact that almost half of the adults in the United States suffer from some form of gum disease—and think that gum disease is difficult to prevent and easy to get. The truth is that gum disease is relatively easy to prevent if you know what to do. This blog explains everything you need to know about preventing gum disease.
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is an inflammatory disease of the tissues surrounding the teeth. It is a progressive disease that we can catch in its earliest stages and take steps to reverse it. With no intervention, gum disease progressively worsens over time, leading to bad breath, receding gums, loose teeth, and missing teeth.
The underlying cause of gum disease is dental plaque. Plaque contains disease-causing bacteria, which produce toxins. These toxins penetrate into the surrounding gum tissue, and the body responds to this attack with inflammation. Gum disease begins with the acute inflammation of gingivitis.
Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease, and it is reversible. Gingivitis typically includes one or more of these signs of acute inflammation: redness, swelling, tenderness, and a tendency to bleed. When left untreated, the acute inflammation of gingivitis recedes and transitions into the chronic inflammation of periodontitis.
Periodontitis, or periodontal disease, involves a destruction of the supporting structures around a tooth’s root, including the gums, ligaments, and jawbone. This is because chronic inflammation is destructive in nature. Over time, the loss of these supporting structures leads to loosened teeth with poor chewing ability.
How Can You Avoid Gum Disease?
Because the underlying cause of gum disease is the bacteria living in dental plaque, we can avoid gum disease by consistently and effectively removing dental plaque. A good preventive regimen involves both home care and professional care.
Your job at home is to remove dental plaque on a daily basis. Plaque collects on the teeth all day every day. This means that a good oral hygiene routine will be consistent. It is possible to brush and floss daily without removing all of the dental plaque from the teeth. This is often due to improper technique, so your home care must also be effective.
Your dental hygienist is the best person to ask for tips on how to improve your plaque removal techniques. There are also many videos online showing proper brushing and flossing techniques, but nothing can beat an in-person demonstration. Your hygienist is also the best person to ask for tips because he or she knows the areas in your mouth that you might be missing and leaving bacterial buildup on the teeth.
Speaking of dental hygienists, it’s essential to see them on a consistent basis in order to sidestep gum disease. There are several reasons for this.
The first, and most important, is that when you do not remove dental plaque from the teeth, it undergoes a process called mineralization, in which it hardens into tartar (also called calculus). Dental plaque is soft and easy to remove from the teeth. Tartar is hard and strongly attached to the tooth. It can only be removed by a dental professional using specialized instruments.
Once plaque hardens into tartar, you can’t remove it yourself. A professional teeth cleaning is necessary to remove it. The professional teeth cleaning removes all bacterial buildup from your teeth, both soft plaque and hard tartar.
Having a thorough evaluation of your home care is another essential aspect of your regular dental visits. Your hygienist will alert you to areas you are missing with your home care. When there are warning signs of gum disease, your hygienist can easily spot them and inform you as to the steps you need to take to stop the process.
Who is at Higher Risk for Gum Disease?
While plaque is always the underlying cause, there are several factors that can increase the risk for gum disease. In general, they affect either the amount of plaque that builds up, or the body’s response to the bacterial toxins. If you have any of these risk factors, you should take extra precautions to sidestep gum disease.
- Poor oral hygiene: When someone does a poor job of removing plaque from the teeth, the residual plaque causes a continual disease process in the gums.
- Dry mouth: When the mouth is dry, plaque becomes stickier and more difficult to remove from the teeth.
- Smoking: Smoking makes the mouth dry, causing the same effect as dry mouth. It also restricts blood flow to the gum tissues, which allows the disease process to worsen faster.
- Diabetes: Diabetes actually causes the same effect in the gums as smoking: it restricts blood flow. Patients with diabetes tend to have gum disease that progresses rapidly.
- Hormone surges: When someone undergoes a large surge in hormones, the gum tissues can become hypersensitive and “overreact” to the toxins in dental plaque. This commonly occurs during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause.
More Questions about Sidestepping Gum Disease? Contact Rockland Dental Today
Call Rockland Dental Specialists today to schedule a consultation with our gum experts. We can help you take preventive measures to prevent gum disease from developing in your mouth. We love helping our patients maintain great oral health! Call us at (845) 259-2500 or complete our online contact form today.