Gum disease is a very common health issue affecting Canadian adults. It's often caused by poor oral hygiene. Here, our St. Thomas dentists explain how poor oral hygiene may lead to gum disease and what actions can be taken to avoid this condition.
What is gum disease?
Gum disease is often referred to as periodontal disease and is an infection of the bone and soft tissues supporting your teeth. When you hear a dentist talking about gingivitis, they are speaking about the mildest or moderate version of gum disease that only affects soft tissues.
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?
Many factors can contribute to your risk of developing gum disease, including plaque and bacteria buildup in your mouth, nutritional deficiencies, prescription medications, genetics uneven teeth and hormonal shifts.
Bleeding gums are a clue that you may have gum disease. This is why you should schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as you notice that your gums are bleeding. Since your mouth contains huge amount of bacteria at all times, good oral hygiene is important to disrupt this bacteria's development into harmful health conditions.
If it is left too long, your body will try to rid itself of undisturbed bacteria by sending more blood to your gums. The excess blood may cause swelling, soreness, bleeding and redness. Your body thinks it has infection - this is called gingivitis, and it won't heal until the source of infection is eliminated.
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.
While you may be prone the buildup of plaque from your genetics, as long as you brush and floss your teeth twice each day and visit your dentist as prescribed for routine cleanings and checkups, the chances are that a case of gum disease won't have the chance to fully develop.
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.
Generally speaking, gum disease can be easily prevented with good oral hygiene. While the issues listed above may increase your risk of gum disease and make its prevention more challenging, whether or not gum disease develops in your mouth depends on the decisions about your oral hygiene that you make each day.