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Gum Disease: Symptoms, Stages, and Prevention

Although estimates vary from about 70% to 90%, it is safe to say that most adults in the US will experience the mildest form of gum disease, gingivitis, at some point in their lives.

In fact, it is the most common infectious disease in the world. Luckily, it is easy to avoid with some simple preventative measures, and a dentist can treat any cases that can’t be taken care of at home.

Gum disease, known more formally as periodontal disease, is caused by a buildup of plaque on the teeth. Plaque accumulates nonstop throughout the day and night, which is why it’s so important to brush twice a day and floss regularly. When plaque is left on the teeth, it hardens and becomes what we call tartar. Brushing the teeth is not enough to get rid of tartar, you’ll need a professional cleaning at a dentist’s office.

Plaque and tartar are full of bacteria. When it builds up, we begin to see some of the symptoms of gum disease. These symptoms generally start off very mild, then become increasingly severe if left untreated.

7 Symptoms of Gum Disease

  • Gums that bleed while brushing or flossing
  • Persistent bad breath that doesn’t go away after brushing the teeth
  • Teeth sensitive to hot or cold foods, resulting in pain while eating
  • Gums become inflamed and appear red and swollen
  • Teeth become loose or move around in their sockets
  • Receding gums which reveal more of your tooth’s root
  • Pus in the pockets surrounding teeth becomes visible as the infection is fought off

3 Stages of Gum Disease

The first and most mild stage of gum disease is gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums caused by bacteria. You might notice bleeding gums or bad breath. Symptoms of gingivitis may go away with more careful adherence to a daily brushing and flossing routine.

Next is the mild to moderate stage of gum disease. At this stage, the inflammation of the gums may be allowing bacterial infection to enter the bloodstream. This can lower your body’s immunity to other diseases.

You may notice that one or more of your teeth shifts slightly in its socket while you are eating and that any redness or bleeding you’d noticed before has gotten worse. At this point, you will need to see a dentist to treat your gum disease, as at-home measures will not be enough.

The final stage of periodontal disease is characterized by a severe deepening of the gum pockets around the teeth. More of the tooth and even the root may become visible. Affected teeth likely feel loose and seem likely to fall out.

Teeth are showing signs of decay and bone loss. You will need a dentist to stop any further deterioration and treat the damage to your gums and teeth. Treatment may require surgeries such as gum or bone grafts.

Ways to Prevent Gum Disease

The most common cause of gum disease is improper dental hygiene. Brushing with fluoride toothpaste, flossing every day, and visiting your dentist twice a year will have a massive positive impact on not only your gums but your overall health as well.

Smoking exacerbates gum disease and makes it more difficult to treat or cure. The sooner you stop smoking, the sooner you’ll reap the countless rewards of improved dental hygiene, overall health, and energy.

There are several other circumstances that can lead to gum disease. Hormonal changes, diabetes, age, certain medications, and a diet high in sugar can all lead to gum disease. Ask your dentist how to best mitigate the effects of these risk factors.

See also: Fresh Breath: How Do I Get It?

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of gum disease listed above, or if it’s been more than six months since your last dental cleaning and checkup, it is a wise choice to schedule a visit to your dentist. For an experienced and affordable dentist in Lafayette, LA, contact the office of Dr. Gina Liggio Maestri Family Dentistry.


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