Were you recently treated for gum disease (periodontitis) and don't want it to happen again? Perhaps you're a stickler for good oral hygiene and are looking for tips on how to prevent gum disease. Either way, avoiding the dental condition protects both your oral and general health. Find out how easy it is to prevent periodontitis through routine oral care and healthy lifestyle habits.
What Is Gum Disease?
Periodontitis is the end result of untreated gingivitis or inflamed gums. Gingivitis is caused by the buildup of plaque on your teeth. Plaque is a sticky off-white substance that covers the tooth's enamel if you don't brush and floss daily.
Plaque hardens into tartar within a few days. Over time, bacteria in plaque and tartar embed themselves in the soft tissue beneath the gum line (periodontal pockets). This often leads to infection or an early form of gum disease known as gingivitis.
Pregnancy, diabetes, lowered immunity, and vitamin C deficiency are risk factors for gum infection. Left untreated, gum disease can enter your body and increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other systemic diseases. Other complications include receding gums and tooth loss.
How to Know You Have Gum Disease?
Oral pain or discomfort and bright red gums are strong indicators of periodontitis. Other symptoms include:
- Swollen, puffy, or tender gums
- Pain when chewing
- Persistent (chronic) bad breath
- Changes in normal gum color
- Gums that bleed easily when brushing
- Pimples or pustules on the gum (also a sign of abscess)
Untreated gum infection can destroy the soft tissue and bone that supports your teeth. Loose tooth or tooth loss may result, increasing the need for costly treatments, e.g., a root canal or dental implant.
Simple Tips for Preventing Gum Disease
Gum disease, or periodontitis, is a common oral infection seen in adults and children. However, it's largely preventable with these practical tips:
- Establish a daily oral care routine: Brush twice daily and clean between your teeth with string or interdental floss. Use an ADA-Accepted antibacterial mouthwash to rinse twice a day. Mouthwash helps keep gingivitis at bay.
- Practice good lifestyle habits: Eat a healthy, balanced diet and avoid or quit smoking, chewing tobacco, and vaping.
- Check for signs of gingivitis: Check routinely for gingivitis symptoms such as swollen or bleeding gums. Follow up with your dentist for advice or treatment.
Routine Dental Visits
In case you're not aware, brushing only removes up to 60% of overall plaque, leaving the rest between the teeth and on other oral surfaces. Daily flossing and rinsing form extra barriers against oral bacterial infection. Still, the 3-step routine (brush, floss, rinse) isn't enough to protect you from gum disease.
Visiting your dentist at least twice yearly provides the strongest layer of protection. Your dentist will examine your teeth and gums for early signs of infection and recommend treatment to stop the disease from progressing.
How Does a Periodontist Treat Gum Disease?
Your periodontal specialist will do an oral exam and take x-rays to diagnose gum disease. Non-surgical treatments can involve antibiotics to clear the infection and deep cleaning, also known as root scaling and planing. Surgical treatments for advanced gum disease include pocket reduction surgery and bone or soft tissue grafts.