The most common condition we see in our office (that isn’t a cavity) is undoubtedly periodontal disease. Periodontal disease, or gum disease, occurs when bacteria get underneath the gumline, multiplying and infecting the sensitive tissue. The bacteria encourages the gum tissue to lift away from the teeth. Without the gums stabilizing and protecting the teeth, the chances of losing a tooth (or teeth) skyrocket. This is why we take periodontal disease so seriously in our office. What begins as a little blood on your toothbrush can lead to eventual tooth loss.
So, how do you know if you have periodontal disease? According to the CDC, 47.2% of adults aged 30 years and older have some form of periodontal disease. Considering how easy it is to keep gum disease at bay, that number is staggering.
If you think you may have gum disease, chances are you do have some early stage of it. Here are a few of the symptoms that you may be experiencing:
Red, swollen gums
The earliest stage of periodontal disease is gingivitis. Its symptoms are mild which is why people frequently ignore them. One of the best ways to self-diagnose gingivitis is by closely inspecting your gums. Are they red and “puffy” looking? Can you see a ridge of plaque building up near the gum line? If you answered “yes” to those questions, there’s a high chance you have gingivitis. Red gums that bleed when brushed are the number one symptom of early periodontal disease.
If you’re experiencing red, inflamed gums, schedule a dental cleaning immediately. If your gingivitis is more severe, they may recommend scheduling you for scaling. This is where a hygienist cleans underneath the gum tissue instead of just around it. Scaling is the most efficient way of removing built-up bacteria that lurks beneath the gums but, even after a scaling treatment, you have to keep up with your oral hygiene routine at home. Brushing twice a day with gum detoxifying toothpaste and flossing once a day will keep your gums healthy and pink.
When left untreated, gingivitis turns into periodontal disease. This may be when you begin to experience some gum recession. Gum recession is when the gums begin to pull away from the teeth, making the teeth appear “longer.” That’s actually where the expression “long in the tooth” comes from. Older people tend to have more gum recession than younger people because periodontal disease typically takes a while to develop — especially if you keep it from becoming too severe.
Adults with good oral hygiene may experience mild gum recession as they get older but, in those cases, there shouldn’t be a serious risk of tooth loss. Gum recession caused by long-term untreated periodontal disease is where tooth loss becomes a real problem. The longer the periodontal disease goes untreated, the worse the recession gets. If the gums shrink away so dramatically that there isn’t really anything holding the tooth/teeth in place, tooth loss is inevitable.
Treatment and prevention
The best way to keep your mouth and teeth healthy is to follow two simple rules:
Brush twice a day and floss once per day
Visit the dentist every six months for a cleaning and an exam
That’s it! If you stick to those two things, you’ll never have to worry about periodontal disease. If you’re already struggling with periodontal disease or gingivitis, here are a few things you should do:
Schedule a scaling appointment at your dentist
Begin going to the dentist for a cleaning every three months instead of every six months
Use detoxifying toothpaste to discourage the growth of bacteria
Floss twice a day to keep your gums as healthy as possible
Drink more water
That last one might be a little surprising but when it comes to keeping your teeth and gums clean, water is incredibly important. Water washes away bacteria and built-up food and can help prevent plaque build-up. Switching from sugary sodas and energy drinks to water is a great way to improve your oral health.
Schedule your first appointment today
Live in the Cary-Raleigh area? We’d love to have you come in! We offer an array of services from pediatric dentistry and orthodontics to oral surgery and cosmetics. Call (919) 460-9665 to set up an appointment today.