Gum disease is one of the most common oral diseases, yet it is still a major threat to dental health. When it comes to this disease, there’s a lot you need to know to help keep you and your gums healthy. Let’s discuss some common questions, answers, and other helpful gum disease facts.
What is gum disease?
Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is an infectious disease that damages the soft tissue around your teeth, known as periodontal tissue (or gums). Periodontal tissue is responsible for protecting your teeth and holding them in place, which is why gum disease can often lead to tooth loss.
How common is gum disease?
Research shows that two in five adults in the U.S. are affected by some kind of periodontal disease. Although anyone at any age can get gum disease, the likelihood of getting diagnosed increases as you get older. In fact, 70.1% of adults over the age of 65 have periodontal disease. It is also more common in men, with 56.4% diagnosed compared to 38.4% of women.
What causes gum disease?
Gum disease is often caused by poor brushing and flossing habits that eventually leads to a build-up of bacteria-filled plaque on your teeth. If poor oral habits continue, the plaque hardens and turns into a hard-to-remove deposit called tartar. In their early stages, tartar and plaque can cause a mild form of gum disease known as gingivitis. However, if left untreated, the inflammation from plaque build-up will create space between your gums and teeth. Once plaque, tartar, and bacteria get trapped in these deep pockets, a serious infection with several risk factors becomes a major concern.
Symptoms of gum disease
If you know what to look for, you can treat gum disease. Red and swollen gums are the easiest way to tell that you may be at risk of gum disease, and you should schedule a visit to the dentist immediately. Other symptoms of gum disease include:
- Gums unique in color (bright red, dark red, or purplish)
- Painful chewing
- Bad breath
- Pus between your gums and teeth
- Receding gums
How is gum disease treated?
Depending on the severity of your infection, your dentist may be able to treat gum disease with a deep cleaning.
- Tooth scaling: A process that removes plaque and tartar from the tooth’s root beneath the gum line, often achieved with a vibrating tool or manual scraping device.
- Root planing: A similar procedure to tooth scaling, root planing pushes the gums aside to clean away tartar and plaque above the gum line.
If a deep cleaning doesn’t fix the issue, your dentist may recommend a surgical procedure:
- Gum graft surgery: Tissue from various parts of the mouth is used to cover any exposed roots.
- Flap surgery: Gums are lifted to access and remove tartar beneath the gum line. After the cleaning, the doctor will stitch the gums back into place.
Is gum disease preventable?
Gum disease and other periodontal diseases can be prevented by following good oral hygiene practices, including:
- Brushing twice a day, for two minutes each time.
- Flossing or using an interdental cleaner daily.
- Visiting the dentist at least twice a year or if you notice any of the symptoms above.
When should I see a dentist for gum disease?
You should see a dentist when you notice any of the signs above or if your dentist recommends periodontitis treatment. It’s important to note that once you exhibit signs of gum disease, only professional cleanings can remove the tartar. To avoid tooth loss or the need for surgery, schedule a visit immediately if you think you may be at risk. For more gum disease facts, check out our website.