By some estimates, most people will experience gum disease one or more times during their lifetimes. That’s not good news, but it doesn’t have to be bad news. You can minimize your risk of developing the disease. With regular dental checkups and professional cleaning, gum disease can be stopped in its tracks.
What Causes Gum Disease?
Gum disease is caused by the bacteria in our mouths. The bacteria interact with the sugars in our food and produce a sticky film called plaque. Plaque settles on the gumline around the teeth and keeps the bacteria in close contact with the enamel that covers and protects our teeth above the gumline.
The concentration of bacteria in the plaque cause the gums to become irritated. Healthy gum tissue is pink and firm. Gums that are irritated by plaque become darkish red or purple, and usually swell and become puffy. This first stage of gum disease is called gingivitis.
Self-Help Measures Against Gum Disease
Plaque is easy to remove. The problem is that it forms again quickly, usually within 24 hours. If it’s removed promptly, it doesn’t get a chance to cause problems.
Brush and floss your teeth thoroughly and on a regular basis. Brush at least twice a day and floss at least once. Use a soft-bristled, small-headed toothbrush and light pressure. That will help keep your enamel from being slowly worn away and allow you to get into hard-to-reach places in your mouth.
It’s all too easy for even dedicated brushers and flossers to miss one or two tiny spots. Once plaque gets a foothold, the early stage of gum disease begins.
What Are the Symptoms of Gum Disease?
Gum disease really is sneaky. You may not notice any symptoms for some time, if at all. In fact, quite a few people find out when they see the dentist for a checkup.
However, gum disease always gets worse without treatment, and you may notice one or more of these symptoms:
- Your gums are dark red or purple, swollen, and/or tender
- You gums bleed when you brush your teeth.
- Your gums cover less of the space between your teeth.
- Your gums have pulled away from your teeth instead of fitting snugly.
- Your teeth have loosened or are shifting.
- No matter what you do, you can’t get rid of bad breath.
When Gum Disease Gets Worse
Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, but it’s no match for a constant assault by the bacteria in plaque. Given enough time, cavities begin to form. Even worse, plaque can extend down below the gumline where it hardens into something called tartar. Tartar is actually harder than your tooth enamel and no amount of brushing or flossing will remove it.
The parts of your teeth below the gumline don’t have an enamel layer. Once the bacteria in tartar set to work, it doesn’t take long for the softer dentin layer to be eroded. And when bacteria get into the pulp of the tooth, you have an infection.
If that infection goes on long enough, the underlying bone and the roots of the teeth can be eroded. Your affected teeth fall out.
Studies have shown that advanced gum disease, or periodontitis, can cause problems elsewhere in the body. Gum disease has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
Gum disease is a big deal and nothing that you should take chances with. If you have any of the symptoms of gum disease, call Tulip Tree Dental today at 574-208-5668 for an appointment.
In addition to regular and thorough brushing and flossing, regular dental examinations and cleanings are the best way to keep gum disease away. We can detect and remove the tiniest traces of plaque. If we find tartar above the gumline, we’ll remove through a process known as scaling. When tartar extends below the gumline, we’ll remove it – and any pockets of infection – by planing the roots, which includes polishing them.
If gum disease is advanced, we may recommend that you see a specialist in treating the condition, a periodontist.
Contact Tulip Tree Dental
If it’s been a while since you or a family member had a dental exam and cleaning, take action now. Gum disease sneaks up on you and it never gets better on its own.
Call our South Bend, IN dental office at 574-208-5668 to schedule an appointment. Or, use our online scheduling application to send us a message. You’ll enjoy our bright, comfortable office and the warm welcome you and your family will receive from all of our staff. .