What is gum disease?
Gum disease (also referred to as periodontal disease) is an infection of the bone and soft tissues that support the teeth. When you hear your dentist talking about gingivitis, this is the most mild or moderate form of gum disease, and it only affects soft tissues.
If your gum disease advanced beyond the early stages, it can begin to infect the bones and supporting structures in your mouth. If left untreated for too long, this can ultimately lead to tooth loss.
What are the causes of gum disease?
A number of factors can contribute to your risk of developing gum disease, including plaque and bacteria buildup in the mouth, hormonal shifts, smoking, nutritional deficiencies, some prescription medications, uneven teeth and even genetics.
Bleeding gums can be your first indication that gum disease may be developing. This is why you should schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as you notice bleeding gums. Your mouth contains millions of bacteria, and if these bacteria are not disrupted, they can cause oral health concerns.
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 an 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.
How can someone 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.
For example, while you may be prone to plaque buildup (perhaps due to genetics), as long as you brush and floss your teeth twice a day and visit your dentist as prescribed for regular professional cleanings and checkups, chances are that gum disease will not be able 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.
In many cases, gum disease is easily preventable with a good oral hygiene routine. While it is true that malocclusions and other oral health issues can increase your risk of developing gum disease, ultimately it is up to you to make good decisions regarding your oral health practices.