Swollen, inflamed or bleeding gums might not seem like a huge deal, but they’re often the very first signs of what is labeled gum disease, or periodontal disease. Periodontal disease can have serious consequences if it’s ignored for too long, and can even cause critical health problems for you in the long run.
But what is gum disease, exactly? Its symptoms can range from slightly swollen gums to full-on oral infections, which may lead to tooth loss or mouth ulcers. It’s usually caused by poor oral hygiene, but studies show that people with a family history of periodontal problems may be more likely to develop gum disease in their life time.
Symptoms may include:
- Soft or tender gums
- Swollen, inflamed or bleeding gums
- Gums that are red instead of pink
- Bad breath
- Difficulties eating
- Abscesses or ulcers
- Rotting or loosening teeth
Preventing Gum Disease
Learning how to prevent gum disease is pretty easy.
- Brush Your Teeth: Sounds simple, right? But most people don’t brush their teeth often enough, which leads to a build-up of plaque (a sticky substance formed by bacteria) and tartar. The bacteria can lead to oral infections in your gum line and in your mouth.
- Floss Often: Dentists say it all the time, but the benefits of flossing cannot be ignored. Flossing removes particles from between your teeth, which means bacteria has less to feed on. Less bacteria means less plaque, and less plaque means a reduced chance of developing periodontal problems.
- Use Antiseptic Mouthwash: Be careful when you rinse your mouth with popular mouthwashes. Most over-the-counter rinses only eliminate bad breath: they do nothing to eliminate the bacteria that cause it in your mouth. Ask your dentists for recommendations: who knows more than about preventing gum disease than they do?
- Schedule Regular Checkups: If you’re afraid you’re developing the signs of periodontal disease, then once a year won’t cut it. Scheduling more frequent cleanings with your dentist can help eliminate bacteria and keep your mouth healthy. Since gum disease can be caused by other oral problems, such as broken or chipped teeth or ill-fitting dentures, having a medical professional fix those problems may eliminate the need for oral surgery later. Plus, you can ask your dentist how to prevent gum disease from reoccurring.
Treatments for Gum Disease
If you’re already suffering from gingivitis (or another form of periodontal disease), all hope isn’t lost. There are a number of treatments for gum disease that are relatively quick and limited in their discomfort.
- Scaling: Scaling is the method most dental practitioners use to remove built-up plaque and tartar. Some patients may experience discomfort if the build-up is severe.
- Filing or Capping: If you have broken or chipped teeth, your dentist may file them down or cap them. Smoother teeth are “safer” because there’s less of a chance of them catching on your tongue, gums or cheeks.
- Roof Planing: If you have rough spots on the roots of your teeth, your dentist may recommend root planing to get rid of them. This procedure can be done with or without a laser. Be warned, though, that this option can be more painful than a standard deep cleaning.
- Medication: If your case is serious, your dentist may prescribe certain oral medications rather than recommend surgical treatments for gum disease.
It’s important that you learn how to prevent gum disease sooner than later. Studies have shown that there is a definite link between oral health and overall health. People who smoke, have diabetes or immune-compromising viruses, or are going through hormonal changes may be at greater risk for developing periodontal disease, which has been linked to cardiovascular disease and lung disease.