What causes gum disease?
Gum disease is caused by plaque - a sticky, colourless film of bacteria that is constantly forming on your teeth. These bacteria produce toxins that can irritate the gums and damage teeth.
You know that brushing your teeth every day can help you avoid cavities. But that's not enough to keep your teeth healthy. You may be surprised to learn that most tooth loss in adults is not caused by tooth decay – it's caused by gum disease. Gums cover and protect the bone that supports your teeth. This bone is like a foundation that supports a building – if the foundation becomes weakened, the building may fall down, even though there's nothing wrong with the building itself.
Similarly, if the gums are not cared for, the bone underneath can become infected and damaged. You can lose your teeth if the bone is not strong enough to hold your teeth in place – even if you've never had a cavity in your life!
How do I know if I have gum disease?
- Your gums are tender, swollen, or red.
- Your gums bleed when you brush or floss.
- You can't get rid of bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth.
- There's pus from your gum line or between your teeth.
- Your teeth are loose or separating. Your teeth or dentures no longer fit together correctly.
Am I at risk for gum disease?
Yes, gum disease can affect you at any age; however, it most often affects adults. In fact, about three out of four adults over age 35 have gum disease now or have had it in the past.
Your risk of getting gum disease may increase if you smoke or have certain medical conditions. It is therefore vital to keep your dentist informed of your general health.
The earliest stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. This is a swelling of the gums that develops when plaque collects above and below the gum line. With proper oral care every day and regular visits to the dentist, gingivitis can be prevented or reversed because no permanent damage has occurred.
How does gum disease progress?
Left untreated, gingivitis may progress to a more severe form of gum disease called periodontitis. Once periodontitis develops, the damage can't be reversed: only a professional treatment program and an improved level of daily oral care at home can keep it from getting worse.
What should I do if I think I have gum disease?
Visit your dentist right away for a cleaning and examination. In most cases, gum disease can be reversed or controlled if caught and treated early enough.
How can I avoid tooth decay and gum disease?
- Brush thoroughly at least twice a day, preferably in the morning and before bed. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush or a good quality power toothbrush - look for modern designs that are safe and gentle to use.
- Take your time. You should spend at least two minutes brushing to remove the plaque that is constantly forming on your teeth.
- Use toothpaste that contains fluoride. Fluoride is proven to help prevent cavities.
- Clean between teeth daily. Use floss or other interdental cleaners to remove plaque from areas that your toothbrush can't reach. Did you know, if you don't floss, you're leaving up to 40% of your tooth surfaces untouched and uncleaned?