Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a common condition that can affect gum tissue and the bone that holds teeth in place. If detected during its early stages, gum disease can be reversed, but if allowed to progress it can only be managed.
Gum disease is caused by the plaque that builds up daily on your teeth, which if not removed, it can become hard tartar. This build-up of plaque and tartar can irritate the gums, resulting in the body attacking any deposits around the teeth. In some people, their immune system can overreact and start to break down the gum tissue and even the bone that supports the tooth.
The first stage of gum disease, known as gingivitis, causes gums to become irritated and swollen, and to bleed easily. If this stage is left untreated, it can lead to periodontitis and this can cause gums to separate from the teeth, creating pockets that are susceptible to infection. Eventually, the teeth can become loose and may have to be removed. Despite the destructive nature of this process, there may only be mild symptoms even at a late stage.
There are a number of factors that may increase your likelihood of developing severe gum disease including:
- A family history
- Hormonal changes
- Poor oral hygiene
The best way to prevent gum disease is to make sure plaque is removed effectively and regularly. This means having an good home care routine with plenty of brushing and flossing, and visiting the hygienist so teeth can be properly ‘scaled and polished’.
Other ways to reduce your risk of developing the disease include attending dental appointments, stopping smoking, reducing stress and eating a well-balanced diet.