The gleam of the healthy white smile is synonymous with exceptional oral health. However, an oft overlooked element of a healthy mouth are the gums. Even though they play a reduced role– in terms of how much emphasis is placed on them— when compared to the teeth, the gums are in fact the very foundation of a healthy mouth. Without healthy gums, even the most beautiful teeth can fall out, mimicking a serious injury. Therefore, creating optimal oral and even overall physical health, requires a focus on gum health. Read on to learn more about how gum health, it’s importance to oral health and the dangers associated with unhealthy gums, also known as gum disease:
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is categorized as either gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is actually the precursor to gum disease or periodontitis. Gingivitis, known as gum inflammation, involves puffy, red or even bleeding gums is caused by plaque buildup. Proper oral hygiene is often enough to reverse the effects of gingivitis. If allowed to progress, though, it can morph into periodontitis. This more advanced type of gum disease can eventually lead to tooth loss due to excessive bacterial growth in the mouth, causing the destruction of tissue around the teeth. Most simply, gingivitis includes the irritation of the gums, but the teeth are firmly held in place within the gums. Periodontitis includes the irritation and bacteria of gingivitis but also involves tissue damage, which can lead to tooth loss and other issues.
Other Causes of Gum Disease
In addition to plaque buildup, there are other factors that can increase your risk of developing gum disease. They are listed below:
- Hormonal Changes: Menstruation, menopause, puberty and pregnancy can all result in hormonal changes that can make gums more sensitive, which can lead to an increased risk of gum disease.
- Illness: Diseases like HIV or cancer that directly interfere with the immune system can affect the gums. In addition, diabetics are at a higher risk of developing infections, cavities and gum disease.
- Poor Oral Hygiene: When you don’t brush or floss regularly, you are at an increased risk of gum disease. Smoking also increases your risk, more on this below.
- Family History: If you have a family history of gum disease, you might be at a greater risk due to a genetic disposition.
- Medications: Specific medications can alter the amount of saliva you have in your mouth, which in turn can reduce its ability to serve as a protector for your gums and teeth. In addition, medications like the anti-angina drug Adalat and Procardia or anticonvulsant drug Dilantin can lead to abnormal gum tissue growth.
How Common is Gum Disease?
Thankfully, in general, gum disease is on the decline, mostly due to the increased emphasis on oral hygiene. However, it still affects one in every 10 Americans at some point during their lives before they reach the age of 64.
How to Prevent Gum Disease
As mentioned above, gum disease is most often associated with poor oral hygiene and can lead to pain and other problems. The following are some helpful tips to keep your gums as healthy as possible and reduce your risk of gum disease:
- Brush your teeth daily, at least twice. Choose a fluoride toothpaste, and be sure to brush around the gum line along with your teeth.
- Replace toothbrushes every three to four months. Worn out toothbrushes can lead to injured gums.
- Either use an inter-dental cleaner or floss at least once daily.
- Rinse once a day with an antiseptic mouthwash.
- Visit us at Martin Dentistry at least twice a year for regular professional cleanings. If you notice bleeding gums, contact us quickly, to counteract the negative effects of gum disease before it progresses to a severe level.
- Limit sugary drinks and snacks and make sure to eat a balanced diet, high in fiber. A high-fiber fruit rich diet has been shown to slow the progression of gum disease.
- Stop smoking if you currently smoke. Smoking is a terrible for your health overall, but especially bad as it relates to periodontal disease. Smokers are, in fact, four times as likely to develop gum disease when compared to nonsmokers.
Signs of Gum Disease
Catching gum disease in its earliest stages is crucial to successful treatment. The following are signs to look for that indicate you might be experiencing gum disease. If you recognize any of these symptoms as outlined by the American Dental Association (ADA) visit a dentist at your earliest convenience:
- Gums that easily bleed, after flossing or brushing.
- Loose or separating permanent teeth.
- Consistently bad breath or taste in your mouth.
- Gums that are pulling away from teeth.
- Tender, red or swollen gums.
Other Negative Effects of Gum Disease
In addition to the negative impact gum disease has on your oral health, it can also alter your overall health in other ways, some of which are listed below:
- Heart Health: There have been several studies that mark a significant correlation between gum disease and heart disease and stroke. This is because the inflammation that is present in gum disease is present throughout the entire body. This can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, which are believed to be impacted by inflammation.
- Lung Health: Gum disease has also been shown to increase the risk of lung issues like pneumonia, a severe lung infection. It is believed the connection is due to an individual inhaling bacterium, from gum disease, into their respiratory tract.
- Emotional Health: A healthy smile is a big part of emotional health. In fact, many feel their smile is their calling card to the world. When teeth are lost, due to gum disease, this can cause result in reduced confidence and lead to poor emotional health. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, some 86% of dentists list social embarrassment as one of the most common consequences of tooth loss.
Take Action Now
If you recognize any of the symptoms of poor gum health listed above or simply want to prevent such symptoms from occurring, contact us at Martin Dentistry in Stockton, CA, to set up your appointment today. As you have read, gum health is vital not only to oral heath but to overall wellness. Therefore, it is not something to be taken lightly.