The most important part of preventative dental care is knowing what to look out for. Gum disease is a common condition that affects millions of people each year, but it’s also one that’s easily preventable. You can help to ensure your oral health and head off more serious issues by looking out for the early signs of gum disease.
What Causes Gum Disease?
Gum disease is caused by bacteria buildup around the teeth and gums. This buildup causes plaque, which can create inflammation at the gum line. In the early stage of gum disease, which is called gingivitis, meticulous care can help to reverse it. When left untreated, however, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis and advanced periodontitis, the most severe stage of the disease. At this point, your gums, teeth, and the bone supporting them can suffer and deteriorate. You may even lose teeth.
Besides your dental health, gum disease can affect your physical health as well. It has been associated with heart disease and low birth weight.
Early Signs of Gum Disease
Regular, conscientious dental care is important, but you should still be observant of your own oral health. Being able to spot the early signs of gum disease can help to save you a lot of pain, time, and money in treatment. Look for the following:
- Persistent bad breath, even after brushing and flossing
- Red, tender, or swollen gums
- Bleeding from the gums
- Loose or sensitive teeth
- Pain while chewing
- Receding gums (your teeth may look longer)
While these symptoms alone are not a definite early sign of gum disease, their continued presence is a concern. The early stages of gum disease are reversible, but not addressing the issue can mean long-term, devastating consequences for your oral health.
It can be easy to dismiss a little blood when rinsing after brushing your teeth or after flossing. Though being a bit rougher than necessary when practicing oral hygiene can be the cause, remember that bleeding gums are not normal. If you notice consistent bleeding in any amount, even after easing up while brushing or flossing, then talk to your dentist for a professional screening.
How Do I Prevent Gum Disease?
Twice daily brushing, flossing, and rinsing are the minimum level of care you need to perform to keep your mouth in good shape. A healthy lifestyle can help, too. Try to eat a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, drink plenty of water, minimize sugary and starchy snacks, and give up smoking if you can. A healthier body is better able to protect you and heal from infections and disease.
Some medical conditions can also make you more prone gum disease. For example, your gums may become more sensitive, and therefore more vulnerable to plaque and gingivitis, during pregnancy or any other hormonal changes (like puberty, menopause, or hormone replacement therapy). Some illnesses, including diabetes, cancer, or HIV can weaken the immune system and increase your chances of infection. Certain medications that cause dry mouth also reduce saliva, which does a lot to protect your teeth and gums from plaque-causing bacteria.
Being vigilant about your dental care is the best way to recognize the early signs of gum disease. Schedule your next appointment at My Family Dentistry today.