What is gum disease and why do I want to make sure I don’t have it?

| August 29, 2008

What is gum (periodontal) disease?

Gum disease is an infection of the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth.  It is a major cause of tooth loss, bleeding gums, and bad breath in adults.  Because gum disease is usually painless, you may not know you have it.

What can cause gum disease?

Gum disease is caused by plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth. There are other factors that can contribute to gum disease including:

  • Hormonal Changes such as those occurring during pregnancy and menopause
  • Illnesses including cancer, HIV, and diabetes
  • Medications that lessen the flow of saliva
  • Smoking makes it harder for the gum tissue to repair itself
  • Not brushing and flossing on a daily basis
  • Family History of dental disease

What are the signs of gum (periodontal) disease?

  • gums that bleed when you brush your teeth
  • red, swollen or tender gums
  • gums that have pulled away from teeth
  • bad breath that doesn’t go away
  • loose teeth
  • a change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite

What can happen if gum disease isn’t detected and treated?

If gum disease isn’t treated the gums and bone that support the teeth can become seriously damaged.  The teeth can become loose and fall out or will have to be removed by a dentist.  Then you would either get dentures, or have no teeth and eat applesauce for the rest of your days.  Hmmm!  A visit to the dentist is sounding better and better.

How can I prevent and control gum disease?

The good news is that you can help prevent gum disease by taking good care of your teeth everyday and having regular dental checkups.

  • Brush your teeth well twice per day.
  • Clean between your teeth everyday.  Early gum disease can be reversed by daily brushing and flossing.
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Visit your dentist regularly for a professional cleaning and checkup
  • Stop smoking
  • Check out this video on treatments for periodontal disease from the American Dental Association