Most people tend to take their oral health for granted, and only come to appreciate the role their teeth and gums play in daily activities like eating, talking, and even smiling when something starts to go wrong. When it comes to protecting your oral health, your first priority should be the health of your gums, which protect the base of your teeth and the connective tissue that anchors them to the jawbone. When the health of your gums begins to deteriorate, gum problems can result in permanent tooth loss. Fortunately, you can take a variety of steps to help protect the health of your gums.
The biggest threat to the health of your gums, and the leading cause of tooth loss, is gum disease. There are two types of gum disease- the milder gingivitis and the more advanced periodontitis.
Gingivitis begins during the early stages of gum disease when small pockets that form around the base of the gum line begin to fill with bacteria, which causes inflammation to occur. For most people, gingivitis causes mild symptoms like chronic bad breath and bleeding gums.
Studies conducted by the American Dental Association have shown that approximately 75 percent of all adults in the U.S. will suffer from gum disease at some point in life. Of these cases, 70 percent involve gingivitis, while periodontitis accounts the remaining 30 percent.
When left untreated, gingivitis can cause inflammation that can spread to nearby connective tissue and into the jawbone, resulting in the development of periodontitis. The symptoms of which include:
- Gum recession. This causes your gums to recede away from the base of your teeth, exposing the delicate roots to decay.
- Noticeable pockets of inflammation near the gum line. This can indicate that the spread of gum disease to other parts of mouth and jaw.
- Gum sensitivity and pain. Your gums become sensitive to the touch, which can make eating and talking difficult.
- Tooth sensitivity to changes in temperature. The exposure of your teeth’s roots make them more susceptible to outside stimuli such as consuming hot or cold foods and drinks.
When combined together, the symptoms of periodontitis can cause even the healthiest of teeth to become loose and eventually fall out. While your dentist can easily treat early stages of gingivitis, late stage periodontitis may become untreatable, making tooth loss all but unavoidable.
Preventing and Treating Gum Disease
A combination of routine dental exams and preventative oral care is the best way to treat and prevent gum disease.
Even if scheduling regular visits to see your dentist ranks fairly low on a list of favorite activities, routine checkups play an important role in catching the early signs of gingivitis before the disease has a chance to spread and develop into periodontitis. By undergoing regular checkups, your dentist can compare the condition of your gums overtime and note any erosion that has occurred. Checkups also provide your dentist with the opportunity to take dental x-rays, which can detect gum disease early on.
At home, you can work towards preventing gum disease by practicing quality oral hygiene. This includes habits such as brushing at least twice a day, flossing, and using an antibacterial mouthwash. If you’re suffering from the early stages of gum disease, talk with your dentist about the best preventative care techniques to use at home.