Don’t Lose Your Teeth; Take Care of Your Gums
Prevent Gum Disease Related Tooth Loss
Do you know what the leading cause of tooth loss is in adults? Many people guess tooth decay, but the correct answer is actually gum disease. More specifically, periodontitis—the most advanced form of this disease—is the most common reason for adult tooth loss.
Over half of adults have some level of gum disease present, and many don’t even know it. Gum disease can develop rapidly and cause permanent damage to your smile if not treated quickly. Your dentist will notice signs of this disease during your routine six-month check-ups, but if it has been longer than six months since your last visit, your gums could be in trouble.
Taking care of your gums is incredibly important to your overall oral health. Without healthy gums, it’s impossible to achieve optimal oral health. This is because your gums directly impact the health of your teeth. They rely on one another for support, which means if you don’t want to lose your teeth or experience permanent tooth damage, it’s vital you care for your gums.
Let’s take a closer look at gum disease, particularly periodontitis.
What are gum disease and periodontitis?
Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is an oral health condition that occurs when the gums become inflamed and infected. The term “gum disease” isn’t a singular disease but rather multiple stages.
This disease begins as gingivitis. Gingivitis is a state of chronic inflammation and irritation. The gums typically lightly bleed after flossing and may feel a bit tender. Gingivitis is completely reversible.
The most advanced form of this disease is periodontitis. Periodontitis is severe and can cause permanent damage and tooth loss. When you have periodontitis, there is an active infection or multiple infections within your gums, most often the gum pockets surrounding the teeth.
Between gingivitis and periodontitis, there are graduating levels of gum disease. Your dentist might describe these as mild gum disease, being a step up from gingivitis, and moderate gum disease, which is the stage before periodontitis.
How do I know if I have gum disease?
The only way to know for certain if you have gum disease is through an examination by a dentist. However, if you’re experiencing these common symptoms, you may have some stage of gum disease present:
- Bleeding after brushing or flossing.
- Tender or swollen gums.
- Redness, especially around the tooth.
- Chronic bad breath.
- Pus between the teeth.
- Loose, wiggly teeth.
- Receding gums.
- Change in teeth placement.
- Change in bite alignment.
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s crucial you get checked out by your dentist right away.
What happens if I do have gum disease?
If your dentist has made a diagnosis of gum disease or periodontitis, here’s what will happen.
1. Immediate Treatment
After determining what stage of gum disease you have and the severity of the infection, your dentist will immediately create a treatment plan to tackle the problem.
If you do have an active infection in your gums, your dentist will typically use antibiotics to get it under control first. From there you will begin regular periodontal therapy appointments to clean out the gum pockets, removing plaque, dead tissue, and bacteria.
Your dentist will also discuss the health of your teeth and whether extractions may be necessary for treatment. If extractions are necessary, your dentist will also include restorative care to replace the extracted teeth as part of your treatment plan.
2. Evaluating At-home Care Habits
Gum disease and oral hygiene are strongly linked. Even if something like diabetes or pregnancy caused your gum disease, taking great care of your smile at home on a daily basis will still reduce your chances of developing gum disease or periodontitis again. This is largely due to regular brushing and flossing helping to prevent plaque build-up on the teeth, which is what leads to inflammation and eventual infection in the gums.
Your dentist will talk to you about your oral care habits to see how they can help you improve on them. It’s important to be honest about how you care for your smile. If you don’t floss often or you miss brushing before bed, let your dentist know.
3. Improving Nutrition and Lifestyle
Your dentist will also ask you about your diet and lifestyle, as both of these factors play a big role in gum health.
Eating a lot of processed foods or consuming a large amount of sugars and starches increases your risk of developing gum disease as well as tooth decay. Lifestyle habits like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption also increase the risk.
If you need help quitting smoking or need guidance on developing a smile-friendly diet, your dentist will happily assist.
4. Continued Treatment
Even after your gum disease or periodontitis is under control, you’ll still need to continue care for a while. This might be continued periodontal therapy appointments until all signs of gum disease are gone for an extended period of time. Many dentists will also recommend those who’ve recovered from periodontitis come in a bit more frequently for routine check-ups and cleanings, such as every four months instead of six.
Finding out that you do have gum disease or periodontitis can be alarming, but don’t worry. With the help of your dentist, you can get control of your periodontal health and turn things around. Remember, periodontal disease isn’t a permanent condition, and even if tooth loss occurs, you can still get back a full smile through restorative care.
Schedule your gum health evaluation at The Tooth Doc today.
If you suspect you might have something amiss with your gums, The Tooth Doc team can help. Our Omaha, NE, office is always accepting new patients and we offer a comprehensive menu of services, including periodontal, preventive, restorative, and cosmetic care. Schedule a check-up today by either calling our office or using the ‘Request Appointment’ portal on our website.