It’s much easier to solve problems when they never exist, and gum disease is no exception. Gum disease is a serious condition with the potential to destroy your mouth if you don’t seek treatment.
Don’t wait until gum disease becomes a problem to address it. Use these tricks to stop gum disease before it begins and enjoy strong oral health throughout your life.
An Introduction to Gum Disease
Like any health condition, gum disease exists on a spectrum of “minor” to “severe”. It presents itself in many different ways, so no two cases of gum disease look exactly the same.
Dentists categorize gum disease into two main types: gingivitis and periodontitis. If your dentist discovers signs of gingivitis in your mouth, it isn’t too late to reverse the issue and restore your gums back to health. Periodontitis, on the other hand, is a more advanced form of gum disease that often requires comprehensive treatment or surgery to resolve.
Gingivitis: The Beginning Stage of Gum Disease
Gingivitis is the mildest form of periodontal disease. It’s your mouth’s warning sign that you must make changes to protect your teeth and gums from serious damage from periodontitis in the future. Fortunately, gingivitis is relatively easy to treat with the help of your dentist, but it can have serious consequences if ignored.
Gingivitis begins with plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that accumulates on and between the teeth. Sweet and acidic foods like soda and candy cause more plaque than nutritious choices such as carrots, almonds, and yogurt. Without regular oral care to remove plaque from the teeth, tartar develops.
Tartar develops both above and below the gum line, and as it does, it irritates and inflames gum tissue. This causes gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease. You may have gingivitis if you’re experiencing any of these uncomfortable symptoms:
- Bright red gums
- Tender, painful gums
- Bleeding from the gums, especially when brushing and flossing
- Chronic bad breath
- Increased tooth sensitivity
- Tooth decay and cavities
If tartar continues to accumulate without professional treatment from a dentist, it quickly progresses into the more severe form of gum disease called periodontitis.
Periodontitis: Advanced Gum Disease
Periodontitis isn’t nearly as reversible and easy to treat as gingivitis. This stage of gum disease is more advanced because plaque and tartar start growing below the gum line and producing toxins that stimulate a chronic inflammatory response within the body.
This type of inflammation tells the body to attack itself and break down the tissues and bones that support the structure of your mouth. As a result, untreated periodontitis causes the gums to separate from the teeth and form pockets that quickly become dangerously infected. Over time, your teeth become loose and fall out.
More than 64 million American adults have periodontitis marked by the following symptoms:
- Pockets between the gums and the teeth
- Recurring gum abscesses
- Loose and shifting teeth
- Receding gums
- Tooth loss
- Degeneration of the jawbone
Only a dentist has the tools and training necessary to treat periodontitis and help restore healthy gum tissue.
Why Is It Important to Prevent and Treat Gum Disease?
If you’re experiencing signs of gingivitis or periodontitis, don’t assume that brushing and flossing at home will reverse the problem. It’s critical to see a dentist for treatment in order to avoid these complications.
Bone Loss in Jaw
Periodontitis destroys and eats away at your jaw bone. This happens when aggressive bacteria combine with the white blood cells signaled by chronic inflammation to break down everything in their path: first connective gum tissue, then the underlying jaw bone and ligaments.
Chronic inflammation makes it possible for millions of bacteria to hop into the bloodstream and travel throughout the body. This makes them extremely dangerous because they can trigger infection anywhere, even your heart or lungs.
Oral health isn’t always associated with heart health, but the two are closely connected. Research suggests that periodontal disease may cause a 19% increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease! This risk level surges to 44% among adults 65 or older.
The Best Ways to Prevent Gum Disease
The best way to avoid the serious effects of gum disease is to prevent the condition from ever forming. It only takes a few minutes of effort and attention a day to stop the buildup of tartar and plaque and achieve optimal oral health.
Improve Your At-Home Dental Routine
Brush, floss, rinse, repeat. Diligent at-home habits are your first line of defense against plaque, tartar, gum disease, and tooth loss.
Don’t rush through your brushing just to check it off your list. That won’t do any good. Brush for two minutes at least twice a day, followed immediately by flossing. Five minutes in the morning and five minutes at night- that’s all it takes to stop plaque in its tracks and prevent tartar from forming. Everybody has time for that!
Choose Your Foods Wisely
It’s not just your toothbrush and toothpaste that matter, it’s your diet as well. Believe it or not, poor food choices can undermine even the best brushing and flossing routine.
If you can make some minor adjustments to the foods and beverages you eat every day, you’ll make it harder for plaque to form at all.
It’s no coincidence that the healthiest foods for your body are also the healthiest for your mouth:
- Leafy greens
- Carrots and apples
- Milk, yogurt, cheese
- Nuts and seeds
- Lean protein
All of these options stimulate more saliva to clear away food debris. They also strengthen your teeth with calcium and other important nutrients. They’re healthy, filling, and tasty, so stock up now.
Quit Bad Habits
We all have not-so-great habits, but some are more harmful than others. Smoking and chewing tobacco are two of the worst enemies of your teeth. They stain enamel and leave your teeth looking brown. Even worse, they also make your entire mouth more susceptible to infections.
If you’re serious about improving your oral health and preserving a beautiful smile, bad habits stop now.
Chew Xylitol Gum
This is an easy oral care tip that you can accomplish without any thought or effort at all. Xylitol is a sugar-free sweetener with many therapeutic properties. Chewing xylitol gum a few times a day is a great way to safely stimulate saliva production and clear away food debris and plaque. Saliva also helps reduce acidity in your mouth, which is a highly effective way to prevent cavities.
Visit the Dentist Regularly
Visiting your dentist every six months is absolutely essential. It’s the very best way to remove and prevent plaque and tartar.
Each appointment gives your dentist the opportunity to evaluate your gums, teeth, tongue, and throat. If you skip appointments or only see your dentist every few years, it becomes much harder to identify and treat problems like decay and disease before they cause widespread damage.
Already Have Gum Disease? Try Laser Therapy
Gum disease treatment once required a scalpel, a drill, or a painful recovery period. But not anymore! Laser periodontal therapy has revolutionized the way that dentists like Dr. Miller can treat gum disease.
Overall, laser therapy uses concentrated light energy to precisely target the area of the mouth being treated. When the laser’s light energy reaches your gums, it gently cuts or vaporizes the tissue as needed. You don’t feel any pain, and none of your healthy tissue is disturbed!
When you visit your San Diego dentist for laser gum disease treatment, here’s what to expect:
- Rapid healing and tissue regeneration
- Reduced risk of infection after treatment
- Less need for stitches and sutures
- Less need for anesthesia
- Minimal bleeding during and after treatment
- Protection of natural tooth structures
At Ivory Pointe Dentistry in San Diego County, Dr. Miller and his team specialize in laser gum disease therapy for patients seeking the most effective and advanced treatments available. Call Ivory Pointe Dental today to learn more about laser therapy and start your journey to better oral health.