Although gum disease is a common dental problem in adults, it can set in at any age. It often develops so slowly and painlessly that you don’t notice any signs until the disease reaches critical stage and you are at risk of losing teeth.
Fortunately, your dentist can help you prevent gum disease, treat it, and reverse it if the condition is detected in its early stages.
What causes gum disease?
Gum disease is normally caused by improper and inconsistent oral hygiene, which enables the bacteria in plaque and calculus to remain in your mouth and infect your gums. Other risk factors include:
- Crooked or overlapping teeth that create hard-to-clean areas
- Smoking, which prevents proper healing of gum tissue
- A diet high in carbohydrates and sugar
- Stressors that impair your immune system’s response to bacterial infection
- Medical conditions such as cancer and diabetes mellitus
- Certain types of medications (i.e. anti-seizure drugs)
Plaque threatens your dental health because it irritates your gums, causing them to bleed and provide entry points for bacteria. Left untreated, this condition results in a mild form of gum disease called gingivitis, and can lead to periodontitis, a more serious condition that causes the gums to recede and ‘pockets’ of infection to form. Periodontitis can destroy both gum tissue and the bone that holds your teeth in place.
How is gum disease treated?
By observing good oral hygiene and having regular dental check-ups, you can prevent the onset of gum disease and enjoy the benefits of clean, healthy teeth.
Gum hygiene treatment plans include teeth cleaning and scaling, and preventative tools such as fluoride rinses and gels. If some teeth require deeper cleaning, your dentist or dental hygienist will use a local anaesthetic to ensure your comfort during the treatment.
If the gum diseases / periodontitis be severe or advanced, your dentist will refer you to a periodontal specialist who will assess your condition, treat it, and monitor you for progress.
How can gum disease be prevented?
Below are some steps that, when practiced regularly, can prevent the onset of gum disease.
- Brushing: Make small circular movements on each tooth while holding the brush at a 45 degree angle. Make sure you clean the inside and biting surfaces as well. A good brushing will take around two minutes.
- Flossing: To remove debris that has accumulated between your teeth, apply dental floss with a back and forth motion between your teeth. Remember to work the floss under the gum too.
- Interdental brushing: Interdental brushes are used to clean between teeth. When used daily, it removes debris and plaque that your regular brush can’t reach. Eight colour-coded sizes are available, each suitable for different-sized spaces.