Gum disease is a serious condition that occurs when bad bacteria infect your gums. If left untreated, this can damage the soft and hard tissues that support the teeth and even progress to tooth loss. Prevention is the most important thing with gum disease, but it can be treated if it does occur.
How Do You Get Gum Disease?
All people have a balance of good and bad bacteria in their mouths. Just like your digestive system, it’s important to keep the ratio in healthy harmony. It is when certain strains of the bad bacteria start to tip the scales and have higher concentrations that gum disease begins to occur.
The foods and beverages you consume stick to your teeth and then your saliva begins to break it down to help it wash away. During this process, many of the foods break down into sugars. The bad bacteria in your mouth love to eat these sugars and multiply in number.
The reason these bad bacteria infect the gums and not other areas, like the tongue or lips, is because they prefer to tuck themselves into the small space between the gums and teeth. This space is the favored location since there is less air and is more difficult for saliva and water to naturally wash the bacteria away. The bacteria can survive in places with air but thrive in areas of little or no air.
The space between your teeth and gums is naturally small but can become larger and form a pocket when you have gum disease. When you begin to have pockets around your teeth, more food and bacteria will become trapped there. The bad bacteria then have a convenient food supply and thrive, causing the perfect environment for the balance of good and bad bacteria to be altered.
Genetic factors play a large role in getting gum disease. You will be more likely to have it if you have a condition that affects your immune system, such as diabetes. Since your immune system helps fight off the bad bacteria, anything that weakens it will heighten your chances of getting gum disease.
Most medications have side effects, and dry mouth is a common one. When you don’t make the proper amount of saliva, the bacteria don’t get washed away as easily and begin to thrive in this environment. Foods also won’t be broken down and washed away in a dry mouth.
Your habits will influence your likelihood of getting gum disease as well. It is very important to practice good oral hygiene, don’t use tobacco products, and get your teeth professionally cleaned regularly. Tobacco use causes dry mouth and irritates the tissues, creating a good environment for bad bacteria to flourish.
What Are the Stages of Gum Disease?
The first stage of gum disease is gingivitis, when the bacteria first infect and irritate your gums, causing inflammation. This means that they are red, puffy, and bleeding. Healthy gums should be pink, firm, and not bleed easily.
In the very early stages of gingivitis, it can be difficult to tell if your tissues are red versus dark pink or are firm versus slightly puffy. Sometimes your gums can show some signs of gingivitis when the cause isn’t infection but is simply irritation from a piece of food or a rogue toothbrush bristle instead. The best way to determine if you are starting to develop gingivitis is to schedule a cleaning or an exam.
Periodontitis is the second stage of gum disease. When gingivitis is left untreated, the bacteria and inflammation progress into the bones that surround and support your teeth. This involvement begins the process of losing bone and support around your teeth.
If you progress to the point of periodontitis, there are deep cleaning procedures that can help maintain the level of disease. Proper oral hygiene habits at home will also be important to keep the disease from causing further bone loss. Too much bone loss results in the last stage, which is tooth loss.
How To Prevent Gum Disease
Gum disease can be prevented with proper care at home and routine cleanings. The bad bacteria are always going to live in your mouth in the form of plaque. Brushing your teeth two to three times a day and flossing one to two times a day to remove plaque and food debris is very important.
When you brush and floss your teeth, you will be disrupting the bacteria and loosening food debris, getting them ready to be rinsed away. A good mouthwash is a great final step in your routine. If you have braces or larger spaces between your teeth, water flossers are an excellent addition and aid in rinsing as well.
Getting your teeth professionally cleaned is very important as we will be able to access areas of your teeth that might be difficult for you to reach. We will also remove any tartar deposits that have accumulated. John Paul Gallardo DDS and our staff will evaluate your current oral health status and determine the proper frequency for your cleanings.
It’s very important to stay on schedule with your professional cleanings so that we can keep a close watch for any signs of progression of gum disease. This will also help prevent too much tartar from accumulating, which irritates gums and traps bad bacteria. Contact the office to make an appointment at 305-447-1447 or fill out our contact us form.