Kick off National Gum Health Month by making sure you’re brushing your teeth properly and getting regular dentist visits. September is the perfect time to brush up on what gum disease is, how it affects your dental health, and how to prevent it from happening in the first place!
What is gum disease?
Gum (periodontal) disease happens when plaque covers the teeth and combines with bacteria to form tartar. Tartar buildup—which can happen in as little as 24 hours if you’re not brushing correctly or visiting your dentist regularly—is what causes gingivitis, a milder form of periodontal disease.
When gingivitis is not properly treated, it can then progress into the more advanced form of gum disease known as periodontitis. Gingivitis primarily affects the gums, while periodontitis affects the gums, as well as other periodontal tissues such as the cementum, periodontal ligaments, and alveolar bone.
What are the symptoms of gum disease?
Common signs and symptoms include of gum disease:
- bad breath
- swollen or tender gums that bleed easily
- loose teeth
- receding gums (the roots appear to be shrinking)
- tooth pain
Sometimes there aren’t any noticeable changes in your mouth until it’s too late—by this point you’ve already developed a more serious form of gum disease. In fact, it is estimated that as many as 48% of Americans have some form of gum disease. Although the effects of gingivitis can usually be reversed with proper treatment, the effects of periodontitis cannot.
Periodontitis is also progressive, meaning that it needs proper management to prevent it from getting worse. In its most advanced stages, periodontitis causes the periodontal ligament and alveolar bone to deteriorate. Unfortunately, this usually results in tooth loss. In fact, gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.
How can I prevent it?
At this point, you are probably wondering how you can prevent gum disease. The best way to prevent gum disease is by brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing regularly (once every 24 hours), and visiting your dentist for regular dental cleanings at least once every six months or as recommended by your dentist.
Some people may require more frequent dental cleanings, especially if you have been diagnosed with gingivitis or periodontitis. There are also certain medical conditions that can increase the risk of gum disease and can make more frequent dental cleanings necessary. This includes diabetes, HIV/AIDS, leukemia or other blood disorders, oral cancer treatments (radiation therapy), heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
Besides practicing good oral hygiene, here are some other ways to prevent gum disease:
– Eat a healthy, well–balanced diet.
– Maintain a healthy weight by engaging in physical activity and getting enough sleep at night.
– Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
– Avoid sugary and acidic foods/beverages as much as possible to reduce your risk for cavities or other dental problems.
-Quit smoking. Studies have shown that smokers are more likely to develop periodontitis than non-smokers, and it has also been proven that the risk of gum disease is greatly increased in people who smoke or use chewing tobacco. If you can’t quit on your own, ask for help—doctors recommend consulting with a dentist
Remember: If you want a bright and healthy smile for National Gum Health Month (and every other month), visit us at The Sadati Center for Aesthetic Dentistry! We can perform dental cleanings and help manage gingivitis to keep your smile beautiful and healthy!
Dr. Sadati possesses extensive experience in all aspects of advanced restorative dentistry, with an emphasis in cosmetic and implant dentistry. He has attained Accredited Fellow status in the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD), the most rigorous, demanding credentialing process in the world. He is the only AACD Accredited Fellow in South Florida.