What is gum disease is a question that you might be asking yourself. Perhaps your friend mentioned they’re dealing with it or your dentist discussed it briefly with you at your last visit as something to watch out for. Whatever your reason, we’re here to give you great information that can help.

Gum disease, or periodontitis as it’s known more formally, begins with a bacterial growth in your mouth. The disease starts when bacteria grow on the surface of the tooth and the pockets of tissue around the teeth. The immune system responds to the bacteria resulting in inflammation. If the bacterial growth goes untreated then the process begins to break down the connective tissues around the teeth and can result in tooth loss.

Gingivitis and Its Connection to Gum Disease

One of the precursors to gum disease is often gingivitis which is an inflammation of the gums. Gingivitis is typically caused by the buildup of plaque and bacteria around the gums and this causes them to become inflamed and to easily bleed during brushing or dental treatments. At this stage though, you can still treat the gingivitis before it progresses to full periodontitis or gum disease.

Causes of Gum Disease

The formation of plaque on the surface of the teeth is the primary cause of gum disease, however the plaque growth can be caused by a number of factors such as:

Hormones during pregnancy, puberty, or menopause can result in an increase in plaque buildup and is something to watch for as you undergo these various stages of life.

Smoking makes it harder for your gum tissue to repair itself and may contribute to periodontitis.

Poor Oral Hygiene is of course a contributing factor. Not brushing twice a day and flossing regularly can make it easier for plaque to develop and gingivitis to occur.

Symptoms of Gum Disease

Now that we’ve covered the basics of gum disease and pointed out a few things that can be contributing factors, it’s also important to provide information on what you can look for as warning signs of a forming problem.

While not an exhaustive list, a few things to watch for include bleeding gums, swollen or tender gums, receding gums, persistent bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth, and loose or shifting teeth. If you begin to notice any of these symptoms we recommend that you visit your dentist for a checkup to make sure you catch any issues during the early stages.

Of course, you may not notice any symptoms and still be developing gingivitis or gum disease on some of your teeth. For this reason, as well as others, it’s important that you visit the dentist for regular cleanings and checkups to ensure your teeth stay healthy.

Treatment and Preventions

As we mentioned above, the number one cause of gum disease is plaque buildup. The key to prevention then is first and foremost tied to good oral hygiene. If you haven’t established a great routine yet, it’s never too late to start.

It’s recommended by the ADA that individuals brush twice a day for at least two minutes, floss at least once daily, and visit the dentist for regular cleanings and checkups twice a year. Implementing these three things can be a great way to start maintaining your oral health.

If gum disease has already developed for you then there are still many treatment options available. These treatments are most commonly administered by a periodontist, which is a dentist who specializes in the treatment of gum disease. To learn more about seeing a periodontist we recommend reading our blog “What Is a Periodontist” here.

At Inland Family Dentistry, we’re lucky to have an in-house periodontist to oversee gum health and more for our patients. Dr. Olson is currently seeing patients on Fridays.

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