Common Signs of Gum Disease
According to the CDC, half of Americans over the age of 30 have gum disease. Periodontal disease is a gum infection that can damage soft tissue and destroy the bone that supports teeth. Periodontal disease often results from poor oral hygiene, making many cases preventable. Learning to spot the common signs of this disease can aid in prevention and treatment.
Common signs of gum disease
Periodontal disease is not always painful, but there are usually identifiable symptoms. These signs may indicate either the presence of existing disease or inflammation that can lead to future disease.
Changes to the appearance of teeth and gums
Healthy gums usually have a firm, pale pink appearance and fit snugly around the teeth. Diseased gums often appear red or purple and may be swollen or puffy. The gums may have begun to pull away from teeth causing the teeth to look longer, and there may be spaces between the teeth that were not there before. Changes in the gums may cause teeth to fit together differently.
Diseased gums are often tender to touch, and pain may be present during or after brushing or flossing. Teeth can also become loose, which can contribute to painful chewing.
Bleeding and bad breath
Diseased gums often bleed easily. This is most commonly noticed when brushing or flossing, but may also occur when eating certain types of food. Pus may collect between teeth and gums, which can contribute to chronic bad breath.
Preventing gum disease
Age, medication, hormonal changes and genetics can contribute to periodontal disease. However, steps can be taken to prevent many cases.
Good oral hygiene
Improving oral hygiene can reduce the inflammation that sometimes leads to more advanced disease. Many dentists recommend brushing the teeth for two minutes at least twice a day. Consider brushing once in the morning after breakfast and once at night before going to bed. Flossing before brushing can help loosen food particles and bacteria, making them easier to remove with brushing.
Regular dental visits
Tartar buildup creates space for bacteria to collect between teeth and gums, which can contribute to inflammation that can lead to gum disease. Having the teeth cleaned every 6 to 12 months can reduce this tartar buildup. Patients who have a higher risk of developing the disease may benefit from having their teeth cleaned more frequently.
Some lifestyle choices can increase the risk of disease. Risk factors for developing periodontal disease include the following:
- Smoking or chewing tobacco
- Substance abuse
- Inadequate nutrition
Ceasing to use tobacco products, seeking treatment for substance abuse, maintaining a healthy weight and addressing nutritional deficiencies may reduce the risk of disease in some people. A physician, dental professional or nutritionist may be able to assist in making these changes.
Periodontal disease is a common, but often treatable, condition. Being aware of the common signs of gum disease, maintaining good oral hygiene, seeing your dentist regularly and making lifestyle changes may reduce your chances of developing the disease.
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