What You Should Know About Gum Disease
Gum disease (also called periodontal disease) is an infection of the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth. It is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. In fact, some form of gum disease affects about three out of four adults after the age of 35.
Gum disease is caused by plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth. These bacteria create toxins that can damage the gums. In the early stage of gum disease (or gingivitis), the gums can become red, grow swollen, and bleed easily. At this stage, the disease is still reversible and can usually be eliminated by daily brushing and flossing.
Gum disease is usually painless and you may not know you have it. In the more advanced stages of gum disease, called periodontitis, the gums and bone that support the teeth can become seriously damaged. The teeth may become loose, fall out, or have to be removed by a dentist.
Signs of gum disease
If you notice any of the following signs of gum disease, see your dentist immediately:
- Gums that bleed when you brush your teeth
- Gums that have pulled away from the teeth and are red, swollen, or tender
- Bad breath that doesn’t go away
- Pus between your teeth and gums
- Loose teeth
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite or a change in the fit of partial dentures
Preventing gum disease
The good news is that you can help prevent gum disease by taking good care of your teeth every day and by having regular dental check-ups. Here’s how to keep your teeth and gums healthy:
- Brush your teeth well twice a day.This removes the film of bacteria from the teeth. Be sure to use a soft-bristled toothbrush that is in good condition. Toothpastes and mouthrinses containing fluoride strengthen the teeth and help prevent decay.
- Clean between your teeth every day. Cleaning with floss or interdental cleaners removes bacteria and food particles from between the teeth where a toothbrush can’t reach. Early gum disease can often be reversed by daily brushing and flossing. If you use interdental cleaners, ask your dentist how to use them properly, to avoid injuring your gums.
- Eat a balanced diet.Choose a variety of foods from the basic food groups, such as breads, cereals, and other grain products; fruits; vegetables; meat, poultry, and fish; and dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt. Limit between-meal snacks.
- Visit your dentist regularly.It is important to have regular dental check-ups, and professional cleaning is essential to prevent periodontal diseases.