Do you have swollen and sensitive gums which bleed when you brush your teeth? If yes, then chances are that you have underlying gum disease. But you are not alone this! According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in every two American adults suffers from some form of gum problems. The good news is the gum disease is preventable and can be easily treated during early stages. So, what causes gum disease and how you can prevent yourself from it? Continue reading to find out the answers.

Gum disease, also scientifically known as periodontitis, is an infection of the dental tissues which hold your teeth in place; the gums, jawbone and the fibers which attach them together. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), gum disease is typically caused due to poor oral hygiene maintenance, which promotes bacterial growth and release of harmful toxins which damage the periodontal tissues.

Here are some factors which can cause periodontal disease:

Poor Oral Hygiene

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), poor oral hygiene is the most common reason for the development of gum problems. Oral hygiene neglect leads to a buildup of plaque and tartar deposits around the teeth, which provide an excellent breeding environment for the harmful bacteria. These harmful bacteria release toxins which result in direct damage to the fibers which attach our teeth to the gums, jawbone, and other dental tissues. When this happens, a gap or a “pocket” start to the form between the teeth and the gums, further promoting food impaction and bacterial growth.

Risk Factors

Smoking has been regarded as the most significant factor which can increase your risk of developing gum problems. The presence of nicotine and tar results in significant damage to the gum tissues. Furthermore, smoking also reduces the chances of success of periodontal treatment.
In addition, some conditions such as HIV and cancer reduce your body’s ability to fight infections. People who are suffering from these diseases are at a higher risk of developing periodontal issues, among other medical problems. Similarly, diabetes results in persistently high levels of sugar in your blood, which can interfere, or reduce your body’s ability to heal infections. Research has shown that some individuals have a genetically higher predisposition of suffering from gum problems.

Certain medications have also been linked to higher chances of having gum problems. Medications such as those used for treating convulsions or angina can lower the body’s immune response, resulting in periodontal issues. Finally, changes in hormonal levels during puberty, menstruation or pregnancy can also increase chances of having gum problems.

What are the Clinical Effects of Gum Disease?

During the early stages, you may only feel that your gums have become red and swollen. As the condition progresses, toxins released from the bacteria result in the formation of pockets between your teeth and the gums. At this stage, the teeth will gradually start to become mobile. As a result of the underlying infection, your gums will also start to recede away from their position. When this happens, you will feel that your teeth have become sensitive to hot and cold drinks. The presence of underlying inflammation may also result in the development of bad breath. In the advanced stage, there is extensive damage to the jawbone and the gum tissues. Your gums may bleed during brushing or eating, or they may even bleed spontaneously. At very advanced stages, the teeth become so mobile that they fall-off. In extremely advanced situations.

How is Gum Disease Managed?

The effect of gum disease is fully reversible if it is treated in the early stages. However, as the condition progresses, it results in irreversible damage to the oral tissues, especially the jawbone in which your teeth are embedded. The first step in managing periodontal problems is to improve oral hygiene status. Your dentist may also perform a professional cleaning to remove plaque and tartar deposits. In more advanced cases, your dentist may perform scaling and root planning, which involves removing plaque and tartar and then polishing the teeth to minimize future chances of plaque adhesion. In some cases, your dentist may also have to perform gingival surgery to restore the height of your gums. Gum disease is preventable. All you need to do is to maintain good oral hygiene and visit your dentist regularly for checkups. Do this, and you won’t have to worry about dental problems at all!