Gum disease is a serious problem that affects nearly half of adults in the United States aged 30 and older (according to the CDC).
This disease is caused by bacteria in the mouth that infect the tissues surrounding your teeth, causing inflammations that can eventually lead to periodontal disease. It starts with the plaque on a person’s teeth. It may not seem like much, but if it hardens into tartar, which can then spread below the gum line, it can lead to gum disease.
So, how do you know if you have gum disease – or if you’re at risk of developing it?
Know the Risk Factors
One of the first things you can do to determine if you have gum disease is to understand the risk factors. When you know what kinds of behaviors or situations may contribute to the likelihood of experiencing this disease, you’ll know if this is something you really need to be worried about.
Some of the more common risk factors include:
- Genetic predisposition – If a lot of other people in your family have had gum disease, you may be more susceptible yourself.
- Smoking – This is one of the “most significant risk factors associated with the development of gum disease.” (According to the Nation Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.)
- Hormonal changes – These changes, particularly in girls/women, can make the gums more sensitive, which, in turn, makes them more susceptible to gum disease.
- Medication – Certain medications can cause dry mouth, and without enough saliva to help protect your teeth and gums, they become more open to infections.
- Diabetes – People with diabetes seem to be at a high risk for a number of infections, including gum disease.
While most people in their teens will rarely develop periodontitis, it is possible for them to develop gingivitis. Also, men are more likely to have gum disease than women. It’s important to keep these things in mind when assessing your risk for the disease.
Know the Symptoms
While the risk factors contribute to the chance that you may have gum disease in some form, it’s still important to know exactly what signs indicate that you need a dentist to take a closer look.
The symptoms of gum disease include:
- Bad breath that just won’t go away
- Tender gums that are prone to bleeding
- Pain when you chew
- Loose teeth
- Severe sensitivity
- Red, swollen, or receding gums
- A change in your bite
If you have spotted one or more of these symptoms, be sure to mention your concerns to us at your next appointment.
This is also why your regular dental cleanings are so important. It gives us a chance to spot any potential concerns before they develop into gingivitis or periodontitis.
Know the Stages of Gum Disease
There are two stages of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontitis. If you are still in the gingivitis stage, it will be easier to receive treatment. This stage is still considered a mild form of gum disease, and is usually accompanied by an inflammation in the gums.
This is a direct result of plaque and tartar buildup on the teeth.
If this mild form of the disease continues to go untreated, though, it will become something far more serious. Periodontitis is an infection in the gum tissues that can cause gum pockets and allow the infection to spread to the bone tissue.
This is where your teeth could become loose and begin to fall out.
What Should You Do About It?
Once you’ve considered the risk factors and discovered some of the symptoms of gum disease, the first thing you need to do is call us and set up an appointment. We can provide gum treatments that range from non-invasive cleanings to bone graft surgery, if necessary.
Of course, the best solution is always prevention. Make sure you’re keeping up with your at-home dental hygiene routines so the plaque simply never has an opportunity to cause serious problems.