I’m pretty healthy and my teeth work just fine. Why should I worry about gum disease?

Gum disease (or periodontal disease) is something most people don’t want to talk about, yet it can be a serious condition, and can lead to more extensive health problems. Gum disease is caused by bacteria in the mouth. If left untreated, you run the risk of tooth decay, which in turn can result in tooth loss. That’s why it’s important to have regular dental check-ups at least twice a year. A professional cleaning is also necessary in order to remove accumulated plaque and tartar.

Approximately 80% of Americans have some form of gum disease, but most are unaware of it, because periodontal disease is painless in its early stages. Fortunately, there are signs and symptoms to look out for.

Red or inflamed gums are warning signs, as is a receding gum line. Gums that are tender to the touch or bleed during gentle, normal brushing can also be a red flag. These signs can indicate the early stages of gum disease and if treated early, teeth can be saved. However, if not treated early on, you run the risk of developing periodontitis. Plaque will start to grow below your gum line. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to talk to your dentist right away to see what treatment options are available.

The main cause of gum disease is poor oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing daily is an easy way to prevent gum disease from occurring in the first place. Aggravating factors can come from smoking, chewing tobacco, older or defective fillings exposing old decay, even changes in hormones during pregnancy and puberty can influence oral health. Some medications can affect your oral health. A dry mouth provides bacteria a chance to grow uninhibited by the natural defenses in healthy saliva. It’s always a good idea to let your dentist or hygienist know of any medications you may be taking. Gums can be affected due to certain illnesses as well. If you have questions about your own dental health, or how it can affect your overall well being, don’t hesitate to ask your dentist to help you build a dental wellness plan.

Be sure to practice good oral hygiene on a daily basis, limit your intake of sugary foods and visit your dentist regularly. Your dentist will be able to tell you which stage your gum disease is at. This will also determine appropriate treatment. Treatments include professional cleanings, scaling, and root planing. Most treatments will be done in your dentist’s office. In more advanced cases your dentist may refer you to a specialist. Remember, early intervention is key to a healthy mouth and teeth. Don’t delay. Talk to your dentist today.

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