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Healthy gums play an important role in your smile appearance and oral function. When plaque builds up and bacteria begins to thrive, your gums can become inflamed and start to recede. Known as periodontal (gum) disease, this condition can not only take away from the look of your smile, but when left untreated, it can cause lasting damage to your dental health. Fortunately, with early intervention, you can prevent gum disease from affecting your health and oral function.

What Is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal, or gum, disease is an infection in your gum tissue that typically starts with red, swollen gums — known as gingivitis. If this goes untreated, the condition can worsen to periodontitis, the most severe stage of gum disease. As it gradually progresses to this point, the ligaments and bone supporting your teeth can begin to deteriorate, causing your teeth to shift or become loose.

Almost half of all adults aged 30 or older in the U.S. have some form of gum disease, many without even realizing it. To prevent the long-term damage that can result from the condition, our dentists urge patients to practice good oral hygiene and attend their routine dental exams to maintain the health of their teeth and gums.

What Are the Symptoms of Gum Disease?

Gum disease often has little to no symptoms at first, causing many people to not realize they have it and go undiagnosed. Some of the most common signs of gum disease that you should look out for include: 

  • Bleeding gums when you brush or floss
  • Your gums feel swollen or tender
  • Gaps develop between your gums and teeth
  • Teeth may start to become loose
  • You may notice chronically bad breath


What Causes Gum Disease?

The main cause of gum disease is plaque that thrives in the space between your teeth and gums. Composed of food and bacteria, plaque is constantly forming on the surface of your teeth, but it can be removed with regular brushing. If it remains on your teeth for several days, however, it can harden into calculus (or tartar).

Over time, the bacteria in plaque can release toxins that damage your oral structures. As the bone surrounding your teeth is affected, it cannot regenerate. Eventually, this can cause your teeth to loosen and eventually be lost. This is why it is important to treat gum disease in its earliest stages. When caught early, gingivitis can often be reversed and you may be able to completely avoid gum and bone recession.

How Can I Prevent Gum Disease?

The best way to prevent gum disease is to practice good oral hygiene, including brushing twice daily and flossing once daily, as well as scheduling routine dental cleanings and exams. During these professional exams, your dentist can evaluate the health of your mouth and assess the depth of your periodontal pockets (the space between gums and teeth). If you receive a diagnosis of gum disease, they can recommend the most appropriate treatment to ensure your condition stays under control.

How Is Gum Disease Treated?

In the early stages of gum disease, patients can typically manage their condition with non-surgical treatments, such scaling and root planing. This deep cleaning involves the removal of plaque and tartar on or near your gums. As this is removed, the pockets that form between your teeth and gum tissue can heal, preventing further problems from occurring. Scaling and root planing is a non-invasive procedure that can help speed your healing process from gum disease.

For those suffering from later stages of gum disease, including periodontitis, more advanced treatment may become necessary to manage the condition. During your examination with one of our experienced dentists, they can evaluate your oral health and determine if you may need gum disease treatment. Should you suffer from periodontitis, they can recommend the most effective treatment options for keeping your condition under control and minimizing damage.

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