In the U.S., 75 percent of all adults will develop some form of gum disease during their lifetimes, with 70 percent of those cases being gingivitis.
When it comes to maintaining the health of your teeth and gums, the earlier you address an oral health problem the less permanent the long-term damage will become. Failing to address an oral health problem early on could result in permanent tooth loss, and the need to undergo costly and uncomfortable dental procedures to repair your teeth and gums.
One of the earliest signs of a potential oral health problem is red, sore gums that occasionally bleed after brushing or flossing. If you suffer from this condition, you may have an early form of gum disease known as gingivitis.
In the U.S., 75 percent of all adults will develop some form of gum disease during their lifetimes, with 70 percent of those cases being gingivitis. Just because the disease is common and the symptoms fairly benign doesn’t mean you can ignore gingivitis. When left untreated gingivitis can progress into a much more serious form of gum disease, known as periodontitis, that can lead to permanent tooth loss. Fortunately, you can easily reverse gingivitis by practicing quality oral care.
Failing to brush and floss daily leaves lingering food particles and plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, on your teeth and gums. After you eat, plaque produces acids that eat away at tooth enamel, which over time leads to decay. After 72 hours, plaque that has built up in your mouth begins to harden into tartar, a harden form of bacteria that can only be removed by a dentist. Tartar begins to accumulate along the gum line, making it difficult for you to properly clean your teeth and gums. Given enough time, and plaque and tartar deposits will begin to irritate and inflame your gum tissue, leading to gingivitis.
Does Gingivitis always Cause Severe Gum Disease?
While dentists once believed that gingivitis would always develop into periodontitis if left untreated, research now suggests that whether gum disease progresses depends on how a person’s body reacts to the buildup of bacteria and plaque in the mouth. Studies have shown that periodontitis may develop due to a variety of factors, including:
- Bacteria. While your mouth contains over 400 different species of bacteria, only about 15 types can cause severe gum disease.
- Genetics. Approximately 30 percent of people may possess a genetic disposition for developing gum disease.
- Unmanaged diabetes. Individuals suffering from uncontrolled diabetes have an increased risk of developing gum disease due to diabetes affect on the immune system. When diabetics fail to properly manage their blood sugar levels, the body’s immune system begins having trouble fighting off infection.
- Smoking. According to studies conducted by the American Dental Association, smoking may be the cause of 75 percent of all cases of periodontal disease.
Because it’s impossible to determine who might develop periodontitis, you need to visit your dentist for treatment once you begin to notice the symptoms of gingivitis.
The symptoms of gingivitis often start off mild, making them easy to overlook. However, over time you may begin to notice:
- Swollen, red, or purplish gums. When healthy, your gums should appear bright pink and firm.
- Bleeding gums; you may begin to notice blood on your toothbrush or mixed with saliva when you spit out toothpaste.
- Tender gums that are too sore to touch.
- Mouth sores
If you notice any of these symptoms, you should begin to examine your oral hygiene habits to determine what part of your oral care you have been neglecting. Perhaps you don’t floss often enough, or only brush at night before going to bed. Once you determine what part of your oral health has been lacking, you can begin to focus on improving that aspect of your oral hygiene regimen.
To prevent the development of gingivitis and periodontist is, you need to practice quality oral hygiene, which includes:
- Brushing for two minutes at a time, at least twice a day.
- Flossing at least once a day.
- Using an antibacterial mouthwash daily after brushing
- Scheduling regular visits with your dentist for routine checkups and cleanings
- Quitting smoking
By following these simple steps, you can ensure that your teeth and gums remain healthy and strong for a lifetime.
A freelance health writer, Timothy Lemke regularly contributes to the blog of Dr. Jeromy Dixon, a Longview, Washington dentist at Smiles Dental.