What is gum disease?

Periodontal Disease is a problem that many adults experience at one point or another in their life. What many people don’t know is that gum disease is a multi-stage ailment that progresses to increasingly serious levels, eventually affecting your overall health in negative ways. While gum disease can be reversed in the first stage, it cannot be reversed if it progresses past this point, which is why it is important to have gum disease evaluated and treated as soon as possible.

What are the first signs of gum disease?

Gum disease can be a silent affliction, not causing symptoms right away. When signs and symptoms do appear, they may not seem very concerning. You might notice that your teeth or gums are just a little bit sore, or that some blood ends up in the sink while you’re brushing your teeth before bed. These are some of the tell-tale signs of the first stage of gum disease, called gingivitis.

Gingivitis is caused when the foods and beverages you consume form a thin, sticky substance called plaque. Because of its sticky nature, plaque sticks to your teeth and must be removed by proper brushing and flossing each day. When it isn’t effectively removed, this plaque can build up over time and eventually harden into a calcified substance called tartar. This is the substance that your dental hygienist scrapes off with a special tool during your dental cleanings every six months. This cleaning process is one of the first lines of defense against gingivitis progressing to the next stage of gum disease, which is called periodontitis.

What happens if gum disease progresses?

If gingivitis is allowed to progress to periodontitis, small pockets of decay will begin to form below the gum line. Left untreated, these small pockets of decay will further infect the bone that surrounds your teeth, at which point you being to run the risk of damaging your teeth and surrounding tissues so badly that your teeth must be removed. This stage is known as advanced periodontitis.

At these two stages, it is no longer possible to reverse the course of the disease; intervention can be done to stop the infection from spreading to areas of your mouth that have not yet been affected, but the damage that has been done cannot be undone. For this reason it is very important to be seen by your dentist as soon as you have any inkling that you may be suffering the beginning stages of gum disease. It’s better to turn things around at the start when it can still be stopped than to deal with the permanent consequences of untreated gum disease.

How can I prevent gum disease?

The best way to prevent gum disease is to employ proper brushing and flossing in the recommended amounts and in the way your dentist shows you (the angle of your toothbrush when brushing along the gums is an important means of removing the plaque that hides along the inner edge of the gumline, for example). Visiting your dentist every six months without fail is also important, not just so that she or he can check for cavities but also so that your dental hygienist can remove any plaque and tartar that has begun to build up. While these two practices might not keep you from ever experiencing mild forms of gum disease like gingivitis, they are the best means of ensuring that it isn’t able to progress beyond this easily treatable point.

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