What is gum disease?
Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is an infection of the soft tissues and bones that support the teeth. Gingivitis, which only affects soft tissues, is the mildest or moderate form of gum disease that your dentist will likely refer to.
More advanced forms of the disease infect bones and supporting structures of the teeth. This can eventually lead to tooth loss if left untreated.
What causes gum disease?
A number of factors can contribute to your risk of developing gum disease, including plaque and bacteria buildup in the mouth, hormonal shifts, smoking, nutritional deficiencies, some prescription medications, uneven teeth and even genetics.
Bleeding gums are a clue that you may have gum disease, which is why you should schedule an appointment with your dentist if you notice that your gums are bleeding. Because your mouth contains millions of bacteria, great oral hygiene every day is a must - to disrupt the bacteria.
Your body will attempt to get rid of unchecked bacteria if it is left for too long by sending more blood to your gums. Swelling, soreness, bleeding, and redness could all be the result of the extra blood. Your body believes it has an infection, known as gingivitis, which won't go away until the infection's source is taken care of.
Bacteria can be found in plaque, tartar or calculus, pockets beneath the gums (in cases of advanced gum disease), cavities, abscesses and chipped teeth. They may also hide in old dental work, as repairs to your teeth create an edge or margin that bacteria can adhere to.
What can I do to avoid gum disease?
There are no real 'tips and tricks' when it comes to avoiding gum disease. The best way to avoid developing gum disease is to maintain good oral hygiene habits, plain and simple.
None of the above-listed factors alone can cause gum disease to develop and thrive. If you maintain a rigorous and thorough oral hygiene routine, it will be very difficult for gum disease to start to take hold.
For instance, even if you are predisposed to plaque buildup (possibly due to genetics), the likelihood that gum disease will not fully develop increases if you brush and floss your teeth twice a day and go to the dentist as recommended for regular professional cleanings and checkups.
Whether a pregnancy causes a hormonal shift, you take prescription medication or are a regular smoker, the most common cause of gum disease is the unimpeded development of bacteria and plaque in the mouth.
Most of the time, gum disease can be easily prevented with a good oral hygiene routine. While the issues listed above can increase your risk (and make prevention more challenging), whether it actually develops comes down to the decisions you make every day about your oral health practices.