Has it ever occurred to you what it is really like to have gum disease? You might already be aware of the fact that poor oral hygiene can have a significant impact on the health of a person’s gums. However, there are also risk factors that you might want to know about. Read on to find out what they are.
What is gum disease anyway?
Gum disease is actually a set of conditions that affect the periodontal tissues and supporting structures of the teeth. In medical parlance, these condition are known as periodontal diseases. The most common of these include gingivitis, which is inflammation of the gums, and peridontitis, which is a more advanced form of gum disease.
Gingivitis is an early-stage gum disease that causes gums to swell and become painful or tender. Usually, the gums are characterized by bright red or purple discolouration, and they could bleed after being brushed and washed. The affected individual may also experience consistent bad breath or halitosis.
Periodontitis, on the other hand, involves not just these symptoms because other supporting structures that surround the teeth are also affected. In people with this condition, the gums usually recede because of damage to soft tissues, and pockets between the teeth and the gums can appear. If the disease has progressed to an even more advanced stage, loss of teeth is also possible.
Why do periodontal diseases occur?
The simplest answer would be because our mouths are teeming with bacteria. There is a great body of evidence that periodontal diseases begin with plaque, a sticky, colourless biofilm that forms on the surface of the teeth. This substance is essentially made up of bacteria, which proliferate when they interact with the starch and sugar found in the food we eat.
Plaque is easily removed when you brush and floss, but it redevelops quickly—as fast as within a single day. When excess plaque isn’t removed, it can harden into what is known as tartar or calculus due to the precipitation of minerals from your saliva and the plaque itself. The tartar is an ideal surface for more plaque formation, thus perpetuating the cycle.
When the plaque buildup spreads below the gum lines, not even brushing will be enough to remove it because it will be protected from the abrasive effect of the brush. This buildup will cause the gums to become inflamed. The swelling also causes the gums to recede and detach from teeth, thereby forming spaces where more bacteria can proliferate. Without proper medical intervention, the gum disease can only get worse.
Risk factors for periodontal diseases
As you already know, poor oral health habits and not visiting the dentist for regular professional cleaning will not help keep plaque in one’s teeth under control. However, did you know there are also factors that can increase your risk for developing gum diseases?
These include things that you can actually do something about, like not eating a healthy diet, smoking tobacco, abusing substances, being stressed, and the use of certain medications. However, there are also risk factors with which people don’t have much control over. These include being someone of advanced age, having diabetes, having a weakened immune system because of a disease like AIDS, and having hormonal imbalances due to menstruation and pregnancy.
Conditions or factors involving the teeth themselves can also become risk factors. For instance, having misaligned or crowded teeth, as well as having dental appliances like braces can prevent you from brushing your teeth properly. Habits like clenching one’s jaws or grinding one’s teeth can also make periodontal diseases worse because these expose the gum tissues to further trauma.
Fighting gum disease
Gum disease has its roots in the presence of bacteria in the oral cavity, which proliferate through plaque and tartar buildup. Good oral health habits like proper brushing and flossing every day are good foundations for periodontal disease prevention. However, even these aren’t enough. Visiting your dentist every six months or one year for periodic cleaning is also an absolute must. Regular dental visits become even more necessary if you have conditions that put you at a higher risk for developing periodontal diseases.
To learn more about what you can do to prevent gum disease, you can get in touch with Be Well Dental at (07) 3846.2002. You may also visit us in our dental practice in Highgate Hill, Queensland.