Despite all the attention that cavities get in ads for oral healthcare products and dentist’s offices, they actually are NOT the most prominent dental problem in the world. That dubious title goes to gum disease, which according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 50% of the US adult population has right now. In honor of February, which is officially Gum Disease Awareness Month, your dentist in Oklahoma City is going to (quickly) cover everything you need to know about gum disease, including what it is, what to look out for, and how you can protect yourself.
What is gum disease?
If too much bacterial plaque is allowed to build up on your teeth, this can lead to decay that will eventually turn into a cavity. On the gums, however, this bacteria causes an infection known as periodontal disease, better known as gum disease. What starts as minor inflammation can eventually begin to break down the soft tissue and bone surrounding the teeth, which can lead to a variety of unpleasant symptoms. Speaking of which…
What are the symptoms?
At first, gum disease symptoms are rather minor, so much so that many people don’t actually notice them. They can include redness, swelling, and sensitivity, but the most prominent one tends to be that the gums bleed whenever someone brushes or flosses. This is due to the body sending more blood to the area to fight off the infection.
Eventually, without treatment, the symptoms will become much more serious. Bacterial-filled pockets will form along the gum line, a patient will experience chronic bad breath that never seems to go away, and their teeth will begin to feel loose. Eventually, a tooth will fall out altogether because the supporting structure has completely deteriorated. This can spell serious trouble for a person’s oral health, which is why treatment should be sought out at the earliest sign of a problem.
How is gum disease treated?
When caught during its initial phase, gum disease treatment is quite straightforward. Most of the time, it will only involve getting a cleaning from your dentist and practicing more consistent oral hygiene at home. If it is a little more advanced, a specialty cleaning known as scaling and root planing may be necessary. For the most serious cases, periodontal surgery may be required, and you’ll likely be referred to a gum specialist known as a periodontist.
How can I prevent gum disease?
Of course, in an ideal world, you’d stop gum disease before it even starts, and fortunately, you probably already know the basics of how to do this:
- Whenever you brush and floss your teeth, make sure to clean along and below the gum line.
- We all love sugary drinks and snacks, but limit your consumption of them because they can lead to an increase in the production of harmful oral bacteria.
- Make sure to visit your dentist at least once every six months for a checkup and cleaning so they can catch and treat an infection as early as possible. They’ll be able to spot symptoms way sooner than you can!
Gum disease is literally a worldwide problem, but by knowing how to take care of yourself and what to look out for, you can ensure that you and your loved one’s smiles stay happy and healthy for years to come.
About the Author
Dr. Michael Kirk is a family, cosmetic, and implant dentist who has been practicing in Oklahoma City for over 25 years. He considers the gums just as important as the teeth when it comes to someone’s oral health, and he is constantly learning and studying so he’s able to provide even better care for his patients. To learn more every day tips you can use to prevent gum disease, he can be contacted through his website.