Gum disease is an infection of the gums that can progress to affect the bone that supports your teeth. Gum disease is caused by plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that is constantly forming on your teeth. Plaque is composed of food debris, bacteria, and saliva. If plaque is not removed, it can harden and turn into tartar. Tartar can only be removed by a dental professional.
If you have gum disease, your gums may be…
…red, swollen, and bleed easily. You may also have bad breath or loose teeth. Gum disease is classified into two stages: gingivitis and periodontitis.
Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease. At this stage, the gums are red and swollen, and bleed easily. However, the bones and connective tissues that support the teeth are not yet affected. Gingivitis can be reversed with good oral hygiene.
Periodontitis is the more advanced stage of gum disease. The gums are red, swollen, and bleed easily. The bones and connective tissues that support the teeth are also affected. Periodontitis can be treated, but it cannot be reversed.
Good oral hygiene is the best way to prevent gum disease. Be sure to brush your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Replace your toothbrush every three to four months, or sooner if the bristles are frayed. Also, be sure to floss your teeth every day.
If you have gum disease, your dentist may recommend a deep cleaning. This procedure removes plaque and tartar from above and below the gum line. A deep cleaning may be done in one or more visits. In some cases, surgery may be needed to treat gum disease. Surgery may be used to remove tartar from the teeth or to restore damaged bone.
Gum disease can be serious, but it is often preventable. Be sure to practice good oral hygiene and see your dentist regularly.
Lastly, the best things you can do to fight gum disease are:
- Brush your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush.
- Floss daily.
- Use an antibacterial mouthwash.
- Quit smoking.
- Visit your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings.
- If you have gum disease, your dentist may recommend additional treatments, such as scaling and root planing (a deep cleaning), antibiotics, or surgery.