In honor of February’s Gum Disease Awareness Month – a global public awareness campaign for preventing gum disease – our practice wants to help spread the word about this insidious disease. That’s because it can destroy your smile if it is left untreated. Fortunately, you can take action to help prevent this from happening! Gum disease is caused by the ongoing attacks of the bacteria that live in dental plaque. Plaque is that sticky, colorless coating you can feel on your teeth before you brush them. The reason you need to brush and floss every day is to remove this bacterial film, which otherwise attacks tooth enamel and gum tissue to break them down. Plaque that isn’t removed daily quickly hardens into tartar, which then needs to be removed at your six-month dental checkup using special tools. Factors Leading to Gum Disease As you may have guessed by now, the leading cause of gum disease is poor oral hygiene. However, additional factors can speed up the development of this disease, including: – Stress – A high sugar diet – Chronic tobacco use – Regular alcohol consumption – Misaligned teeth (prevents you from cleaning your teeth effectively) – Fluctuating hormone levels – Cancer & diabetes mellitus – Breathing through the mouth which dries out oral tissues Symptoms of Gum Disease How do you know if you have gum disease, especially since it’s often painless in the early stage? Watch out for these symptoms: – Bleeding gums when you brush and floss – Red, tender or swollen gums – Chronic bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth – Tooth sensitivity to hot/cold temperatures – Gum tissue pulling away from the teeth – Loose-feeling teeth – Altered bite pattern – Loose-fitting partial dentures – Pus around teeth and gums – Pain when chewing All of these are signs that you are dealing with some form of gum disease. 3 Stages of Gum Disease 1. Gingivitis This beginning stage is when you might start noticing gum inflammation, swelling, redness, and bleeding, especially when you go to brush and floss. The good news is that this stage of gum disease can be reversed since it hasn’t yet reached the supportive bone and connective tissue. 2. Periodontitis This intermediate stage irreversibly destroys supportive bone and connective tissue. You may feel pockets forming below the gum line. Gum pockets allow the formation of plaque buildup under the gum line, which often requires interventive periodontal treatment, like scaling and root planing coupled with a stepped-up daily oral hygiene routine. 3. Advanced Periodontitis Should there be no periodontal intervention at stage two, you will likely find yourself in this final stage of the disease. Now the connective tissue and bone material will have been destroyed. It causes your teeth to loosen and shift out of position, altering your bite, speech, and ability to chew properly. Without periodontal treatment, the teeth will likely require extraction. Gum Disease Prevention: Be Proactive! Thankfully, there’s a lot you can do to prevent gum disease from attacking your smile! – Stick to a diligent daily oral hygiene routine, including brushing and flossing at least twice a day. – Keep all scheduled biannual dental checkups and cleanings. – After eating (especially snacks), drink water to rinse away food particles and oral debris. – Limit bacteria-feeding sugars in your diet, and when you do indulge, chew sugarless gum to increase saliva flow that helps rinse away bacteria. – If you still use tobacco, there’s no better time than now to give it up. Your gums will thank you! We hope spreading information about this disease in support of Gum Disease Awareness Month inspires you to be more proactive when it comes to protecting your oral health. After all, healthy teeth and gums are essential for a vibrant, beautiful smile!