Fitness Facts: Gum disease
By Connie Colbert
Director, Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic
Gum disease, otherwise known as gingivitis, is often a silent disease that can cause permanent damage. Symptoms may not appear until an advanced stage of the disease.
Warning signs of gum disease include the following:
- Red, swollen or tender gums or other pain in your mouth
- Bleeding while brushing, flossing or eating hard food
- Gums that are receding or pulling away from the teeth, causing the teeth to look longer than before
- Loose or separating teeth
- Pus between your gums and teeth
- Sores in your mouth
- Persistent bad breath
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- A change in the fit of partial dentures
Millions of people do not know they have this serious infection, which can lead to tooth loss if not treated.
Why do we get gum disease?
The problem begins with bacteria. Our mouths are packed with these tiny microbes. They combine with mucus and other particles to form a sticky, colorless film, called plaque, on our teeth.
Brushing and flossing can get rid of some plaque. But any that remains can harden and form tartar, a yellowish deposit that can become attached to your teeth. Plaque and tartar buildup can then lead to gum disease.
You usually can reverse gum disease with daily brushing and flossing and regular cleanings by a dentist or dental hygienist. Untreated gingivitis can lead to periodontitis.
If you have periodontitis, the gums pull away from the teeth and form pockets that become infected. If untreated, the bones, gums and connective tissue that support the teeth are destroyed.
Smoking also greatly increases your risk for gum disease, so there is another reason not to smoke.
Although many aspects of gum disease are still being investigated, one thing is clear: Controlling gum disease can save your teeth. That alone is an excellent reason to take good care of your teeth and gums every day.