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Gum Disease Your Teeth’s Greatest Enemy
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Gum Disease Your Teeth’s Greatest Enemy

Gum disease, not old age, is the primary reason for tooth loss. Gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease, is an inflammation of the gums caused by the buildup of plaque, a sticky substance that forms naturally on teeth and contains bacteria that can lead to tooth decay. Risk factors for gum disease include the following

  • Wearing braces makes oral hygiene more challenging because food can be trapped in the appliance and may not be completely removed by brushing.
  • Smoking and tobacco use increase the chances for gum disease and decrease the chances for successful treatment.
  • Hormone changes in females often make the gums more sensitive and increase the likelihood of gingivitis.
  • Diabetes increases risk for many infections, including gingivitis.
  • Certain diseases, such as cancer or AIDS, as well as their treatments, can negatively affect the gums.
  • Genetics may make some people more prone to gum disease.
  • Medications can reduce the flow of saliva, leaving the mouth vulnerable to gum infections and can cause the gum tissue to grow abnormally, making it difficult to keep the gums and teeth clean.

If your gums are red and swollen, if they bleed when you brush or if you have persistent bad breath, you may have gingivitis. If caught early, the damage can usually be reversed by daily brushing and flossing, along with regular professional cleanings, preventing loss of bone or tissue that holds the teeth in place.

If plaque is not removed from teeth, however, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, which can irreversibly damage bone and fibers that hold your teeth in place. Pockets formed below the gum line trap food and plaque, causing even more damage. If the gum line has receded, your teeth may look longer and you may notice changes in your bite. As the pockets deepen, periodontitis can advance to the stage where bone and tissue can no longer anchor teeth in place, and they may fall out.

Good preventive care – brushing teeth twice a day, flossing daily, using an antibacterial mouthwash each day and visiting a dentist for a professional cleaning and check-ups twice a year – can help keep plaque and gum disease under control.

However, if your gums do not stay healthy in spite of doing all this, then you should consult a periodontal specialist.

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