Have you ever had gum disease? People over 40 are much more likely to develop gum disease. There are two forms of gum disease – gingivitis being the milder form, and periodontitis being the more serious kind. This means that the disease varies from simple gum irritation to major damage to the soft tissue around the teeth and to the bones that support the teeth. So we can say, “gum disease is no laughing matter”.
Whether you develop gum disease and how serious it gets depends largely on how well you care for your teeth. All those things the dentist tells you to do – brushing at least twice a day, brushing for a minute not just 10 seconds, flossing, mouth rinse – these good habits help ensure gum disease prevention or slowing. People with diabetes, genetic disposition, or who smoke are more likely to develop gum disease. Also people who are on medications that make the mouth dry (reduce saliva) can be more prone to gum disease.
Gum disease is caused by plaque (which is made of bacteria) forming on the teeth at the gum line. It hardens and becomes tartar, and traps bacteria. Brushing will not remove tartar – only a dentist can do this with the right tools. So if someone has tartar buildup and does not visit the dentist, the harbored bacteria starts to cause inflammation around the toothline, on the gums. At the gingivitis stage, it can be reversed. If allowed to continue, peridontitis develops and the gums actually pull away from the teeth, creating spaces (pockets) that become infected. Ouch!
Symptoms of gum disease include:
-Ongoing bad breath
-Tender gums – or bleeding gums
-Pain when chewing
-Red or swollen gums, or receding gums
None of these symptoms should be taken lightly. If you develop one, it is time for a visit to the dentist. The treatment implemented will control the infection by doing a deep cleaning of the teeth and in most cases prescribing medication. Good follow-up care at home is essential. Just as there are special dentists called endodontists who specialize in root canals, there are also special dentists called periodontists who specialize in treating gum disease and teeth affected by too much plaque and tartar. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary – such as when the inflammation and “pockets” remain after the deep cleaning process has been done.
Your best bet in avoiding cavities, decay and gum disease are to follow your dentist’s recommendations for good oral care.