Are you still under the impression that gum disease is something that only happens to your grandparents? The answer is no. Surprisingly even teens can get gum disease. Gum disease can lead to simple problems like embarrassing bad breath to complicated issues like tooth loss.

Gum disease, commonly known as gingivitis, is an inflammation of your gums caused by a bacterial infection. If untreated, the condition can become severe, which could lead to periodontitis.

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Gingivitis and periodontitis are the two primary causes of tooth loss in adults. According to the American Dental Association, these are common gum problems seen in adults.  

According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services – Americans spent more than $130 billion on dental services in a given year. 

This article discusses the impact of gum disease on your oral health and the risks involved if you do not take proper care of them.   

What is Gum Disease?

Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease. The condition leads to the inflammation of the tissues surrounding and supporting the affected teeth. Gum disease is the result of poor dental hygiene. 

Gum disease is a common condition characterized by red, swollen gums that bleed when you brush or floss. Gingivitis is not the same as periodontitis. 

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Gum disease starts when food debris combines with saliva and bacteria in your mouth to form dental plaque that sticks to the teeth surfaces. If you forcefully do not remove plaque on teeth by brushing with toothpaste and flossing, it can become mineralized. Finally, forming calculus or tartar, a hard coating on your teeth. Tartar is a hard coating, and only professional dental cleaning can remove it.

Dental plaque and tartar consist of harmful bacteria. If you do not get them removed, they will begin to irritate the gums, causing gingivitis. If left untreated, gingivitis will extend from your gums to the bone leading to periodontitis.

What Causes Gum Disease?

If you maintain bad oral hygiene, the bacteria present in plaque and calculus remain on your teeth. These bacteria will infect your gums causing gum disease. However, there are other factors that might increase your risk of developing gum disease or gingivitis. 

Here below are some of the most common risk factors:

1 If you have crooked or overlapping teeth, it might create more areas for calculus and plaque to accumulate on your teeth. Then it will become harder to keep clean.

2 Smoking or chewing tobacco prevents the gum tissue from healing.

3 Alcohol harms your oral defense mechanisms.

4 Hormonal changes during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause are often correlated with a rise in gum disease. The increased hormone levels cause the blood vessels in your gums to be more susceptible to bacterial and chemical attacks. At puberty, gum disease is prevalent among 70%-90% of people.

5 If you are a cancer patient, cancer treatment can make you more susceptible to gum infection.

6 Mental stress decreases your body’s immune response to bacterial invasion.

7 Diabetes mellitus is also known to impair blood circulation in your blood vessels, reducing your gum’s ability to heal.

8 Poor nutrition, like a meal high in sugar and carbohydrates and low in water, will increase plaque formation. Moreover, a deficiency of vitamin C can also impair the healing process.

9 Certain medications can increase the risk for gum disease.

10 Poor saliva production could be another cause of gum disease. 

What is the Difference Between Gingivitis and Periodontitis?

While gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease where there is only inflammation of your gums around affected teeth. Periodontitis, on the other hand, will occur when the bone below your gums is infected or inflamed. 

Periodontitis comes from the word periodontal, which means “around the tooth”. It generally refers to the structures that support and surround your teeth, like the gums and the bones.

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When the underlying bone gets infected, your gums will slowly start to recede (receding gums) away from the teeth. This process results in the formation of deep gum pockets. This is generally known as attachment loss. 

You need to understand that these pockets can readily collect bacteria and plaque. It is because these pockets are difficult to keep clean that results in more bone loss.  

As your periodontal disease progresses into advanced stages, you might notice more bone tissue loss. The gum pockets keep deepening, and your teeth may eventually become loose and fall out.

Is Gum Disease Associated with Other Health Problems?

There is a close link between gum disease and other systemic health problems such as stroke, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. If you compare the bacteria that cause dental plaque with the bacteria involved in heart disease – there is a correlation between heart disease and gum disease.

But researchers have been unable to establish a cause and effect relationship between the two. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, studies have proved that periodontal disease bacteria might play a role in the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease. 

At times these types of relationships are difficult to prove, so it is fair to aim for a life free from gum disease that will help in leading a healthier life. 

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It is known that certain health problems can cause gum disease but vice versa is hard to prove. If there are any sudden changes in your medical condition, then you should ask your dentist if there is any effect on your oral health. Note that healthy gums can become threatened when your body’s overall health diminishes or changes for any reason.

How is Gum Disease Managed During Pregnancy?

When they become pregnant, many women think that they should avoid visiting the dentist to keep their pregnancy safe. But this is not true. You should not miss your professional cleaning as long as you feel comfortable enough. 

Experts say that during pregnancy, you are at a greater risk of developing pregnancy gingivitis. Because of the increased levels of hormones that occur during this period. Your gum tissues are more susceptible to attack from bacteria and other pathogens. 

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As a pregnant woman, you will notice an increase in swollen, bleeding gums even if your oral hygiene has remained consistent. Remember, getting dental cleanings done more often during pregnancy might be necessary to help combat this increased risk.

How to Treat Gum Disease?

The main goal of the treatment is to control the gum infection. Your dentist might ask you to change certain behaviors – like quit smoking, to improve your treatment results. If you cut back on smoking and consciously manage your diabetes, it would help to heal your gum disease. 

1 Cleaning teeth

Methods include: 

  • Scaling will remove tartar from both above and below your gum line.
  • Root planing will smooth out rough spots and remove plaque and tartar form on your root surface.
  • Lasers are also used to remove tartar.

2 Medications

Medications that can treat gum disease:

  • Antiseptic mouthwash containing chlorhexidine is used to disinfect the mouth.
  • Your dentist might prescribe oral antibiotics to treat areas of gum inflammation.
  • Some other antibiotics can help keep enzymes from causing tooth damage.

3 Surgery

These include:

  • Flap surgery is a dental procedure where your dentist will open and clean the badly diseased gum pockets. Your gums are then sutured to fit snugly around the affected tooth. 
  • Tissue and bone grafts are also an option when your teeth and jaw are badly damaged.
  • Gingival grafting is another method if your gum tissues are too diseased.  

Are Home Remedies Effective for Gum Disease?

There has been evidence to show the effectiveness of the following natural treatments for gum disease:

  • Green tea’s antioxidant property can help reduce inflammation in your body.
  • Warm salt water rinses can help to soothe sore mouth tissue.
  • Hydrogen peroxide is a readily available substance that helps kill bacteria when used as a mouthwash. You can also use it as a gel in a custom-fitted tray, but you should not swallow it.
  • If you dilute baking soda in water, you can use it to rinse and brush your teeth and gum line. The solution will help neutralize the acids that irritate the gum tissue.
  • Oil pulling (rinsing or swishing): Sesame oil or coconut oil is very helpful as it can reduce bacteria that cause gum disease in your mouth. Many people have noticed improvement with this treatment.

Prevention Tips

Fortunately, gum disease is preventable. Take care of your teeth, starting today. 

  • Brush twice a day for at least 2-3 minutes each time and floss daily. If you are not sure whether you are brushing or flossing properly, your dentist can give you a demo and show you the best techniques.
  • Try using a toothpaste containing fluoride; your dentist might also recommend daily mouth rinses containing fluoride.
  • You can use a toothbrush with soft, polished bristles, as they would be less likely to irritate or injure your gum tissue. But be sure to replace your toothbrush at least every 3 to 4 months. Remember, a worn-out toothbrush can injure your gums. 
  • Eat a healthy diet containing vitamins, minerals, and even fruits and vegetables. Avoid snacks and fast food packed with sugar that plaque-causing bacteria love to feed on.
  • Do not smoke. Chewing tobacco and cigarettes cause mouth irritation and are very unhealthy for your gums and teeth.
  • Regular dental care is important as it helps to keep your mouth healthy. Visit your dentist for routine care, especially cleaning at least twice a year. Your dentist can only remove hardened plaque and any tartar that you cannot remove with brushing or flossing.