Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is more common than you might think. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 47% of adults over 30 have some form of gum disease, and more than 70% of people over 65 have it. Although gum disease is common, it’s not inevitable.
Learn more about the causes of gum disease, ways to keep your gums healthy, and what gum disease treatments are available.
In this blog, we’ll look at the following:
- How do you know if you are getting gum disease?
- How can gum disease be prevented?
- Can you stop gum disease once it starts?
- What is the main cause of gum disease?
- Can gum disease go away?
How Do You Know If You Are Getting Gum Disease?
Although gum disease often does not have signs or symptoms until the later stages, there are things to watch out for. If you notice any of the following, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with a dentist:
- Swollen or tender gums
- Gums that bleed easily, such as when you brush or floss
- Gums that are pulling away from the teeth, leaving more of the tooth exposed
- Ongoing bad breath
- A change in your bite
- Teeth that feel loose
- Pus or sores in the mouth or on the gums
During your visit, the dentist will examine your mouth, clean your teeth and gums, and discuss treatment options if needed. In the earliest stages, a deep dental cleaning and regular follow-up with a dentist can be enough to reverse gum disease. More advanced forms of the disease usually require more in-depth treatments, including surgery in some cases.
How Can Gum Disease Be Prevented?
When it comes to gum disease, preventing it is often preferable to having to treat it. Preventing gum disease naturally is relatively simple, as long as you follow a consistent oral care routine and schedule regular dental check-ups. The following steps can help you avoid gum disease symptoms:
Brush Your Teeth at Least Twice a Day
Brushing your teeth helps to remove plaque, bits of food, and bacteria that build up on the teeth and gums. Brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste is ideal. When you brush, also clean your tongue to remove any bacteria from its surface.
Floss at Least Once a Day
Flossing daily gets rid of food pieces and bacteria that are between the teeth or along the gumline. Usually, brushing alone can’t get bits of food trapped between the teeth. If you aren’t sure how to floss, a dentist can give you a demonstration. If using string floss is too tricky, pre-threaded flossers are available. Some people find it easier to get a flosser between their teeth or to reach the back teeth with a flosser.
Understand Your Risk Factors
Knowing if you have any risk factors for gum disease and what you can do about those risk factors can help you prevent it. For example, if you smoke, quitting can reduce your risk of developing gum disease. Your diet might also affect your chance of getting gum disease. The bacteria that cause periodontal disease love sugar, so eating a lot of sweet foods can put you at an increased risk. Sugary foods also increase your risk of developing cavities.
See a Dentist for Cleanings and Exams
Although cleaning your teeth and gums at home can help reduce your chances of developing gum disease considerably, working with a dentist is also essential. Your dentist can perform a professional cleaning, removing tartar from the teeth and gumline.
As part of the checkup, they’ll also examine your gums, look for signs of inflammation, and measure the pockets between the teeth and gums. When your mouth is generally healthy, the pockets will be between one and three millimeters. Deeper pocket depth is often a sign of early or later stages of gum disease. It’s a good idea to see your dentist at least twice a year for a cleaning and exam.
Consider Correcting Issues With Your Teeth
If your teeth are misaligned or if there are large spaces between them, you might have a higher risk of getting gum disease. Bacteria and food particles can get stuck in the spaces between your teeth or areas where teeth overlap, irritating the gums and contributing to inflammation. Orthodontic treatment can help to correct the alignment of your teeth, potentially reducing your gum disease risk.
Can You Stop Gum Disease Once it Starts?
Mild cases of gum disease can be treated with consistency in good oral hygiene habits. Unfortunately, once gum disease reaches a certain severity, it cannot be fully cured. That said, various dental treatments work to manage the condition and minimize its effects on your teeth, including teeth scaling, flap debridement, and grafting.
What is the Main Cause of Gum Disease?
Gum disease occurs when the gums which hold the teeth in place, become infected or inflamed. A buildup of bacteria in the mouth is usually the cause of gum or periodontal disease.
Everyone has mouth bacteria. When you eat and drink, the sugar in your food provides food for the bacteria in your mouth. The bacteria then form plaque, a sticky substance that coats your teeth and gums. Brushing and flossing your teeth removes plaque, helping to protect yourself from gum disease and cavities. If you don’t brush your teeth regularly, the plaque can harden, forming a substance called tartar. Tartar is a lot more difficult to get rid of than plaque. You’ll usually need to see a dentist for a professional cleaning if you have a lot of tartar build-up.
Not only is tartar tricky to remove, but it can also irritate your gums, creating inflammation. When the gums are inflamed, they bleed more easily. They can also start to pull away from the teeth, forming pockets where more bacteria can grow.
Although gum disease can happen to anyone, some people are more at risk for developing it than others. For example, smoking cigarettes or using tobacco products increases your risk of gum disease. Other risk factors include:
- Having crooked teeth
- Having diabetes
- Being pregnant or taking birth control pills
- Having dry mouth
- Having a family history of gum disease
- Having poor oral hygiene habits
|Group Demographic||Percent of Demographic Population Affected by Gum Disease|
|Ages 18 and Under||50%|
|Ages 30 and Older||47%|
|Ages 65 and Older||70%|
Can Gum Disease Go Away?
Gum disease will continue to progress without intervention. Catching it early on and applying proper treatments can reverse the damaging effects, but once it has reached the point of bone loss and advanced infection, gum disease isn’t reversible. Regardless of the stage of gum disease, you can always work with our dentists to manage symptoms and minimize the impact of the condition.
Published On: February 25, 2020
Updated On: September 6, 2023