Everyone knows what they need to do to keep their smiles healthy: Brush, floss, and visit a dentist for regular cleanings and exams. That’s how you fight tooth decay. But your smile also includes your gums, and you need to look after these as well.
Cavities are caused by harmful bacteria. (Don’t worry, everybody has some of these in their mouth.) But they can also irritate and infect your gums, giving you a condition known as gum disease. Just like cavities, ignoring this dental health problem could lead to serious problems, including lost teeth.
Look For These Signs
There are two stages of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontitis.
- Gingivitis is the early stage of the disease. It’s often caused by plaque irritating your gums (even underneath them). Most of the problems here are in your gums.
- Periodontitis is the advanced stage. Here, the problems expand and start to affect your breath and teeth.
No matter which you may have, there are many signs they have in common. Check to see if you have any of these symptoms.
Swollen gums: Plaque and bacteria that create it can irritate your gums. This means they can get tender and swollen. They can also get discolored and look darker than normal.
Receding gums: As the gum tissues get harmed, they start to pull away from your teeth. If you are unsure if your gums are receding, look at your teeth. If they appear longer than normal, then the gums have probably moved.
Bleeding after cleaning teeth: If your gums are infected, it’s very easy to make them bleed. That’s why a big sign you may have gum disease is seeing some blood when you’re done with brushing and flossing.
Bad breath (halitosis): Harmful bacteria can infect your gum tissues. When this happens, the cells they kill off start to smell bad. Halitosis is another name for chronic bad breath, which is a big sign you can have gum disease.
Loose teeth: Eventually, the infected and irritated gums pull away from your teeth so much that they start to feel a little loose. They will fall out given enough time, which is why you need treatment soon.
Gum Disease Treatment
If you have even just one of these symptoms, you need gum disease treatment. If you come in soon enough, the basic treatment is a thorough dental cleaning to remove plaque. For more advanced cases, you can get scaling and root planing. This treatment gets to any plaque (and the bacteria that causes it) underneath your gumline. You can also get Arestin®, an antibacterial medication that will kill the bacteria causing the problem.