Look in the mirror and smile. Are your gums pink, firm, and tight around your teeth? If they are not, you may have gum disease. And if they are, you may have gum disease. That’s right: gum disease, or periodontal disease, is often asymptomatic in its early stages. But that doesn’t mean it’s not doing damage.
Regular dental checkups are essential to nipping periodontal disease in the bud. One of our doctors will give your gums a thorough examination and spot problems before you are aware of them.
Gum Disease Symptoms
Did you know that gum disease, not tooth decay, is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults? Left untreated, diseased gums will pull away from the teeth, causing them to loosen and fall out. When caught early on, however, periodontal disease is easily reversible. Symptoms of gum disease include:
- Gums that bleed while brushing
- Gums that are swollen, tender, or red
- Gums that appear to be pulling away from the teeth
- A bite that seems to have changed or doesn’t fit together properly
- Sensitive or painful teeth
- Pain while eating
- Pus around your gums
- Persistent halitosis, or bad breath
- Teeth that are loose or fall out
And remember: gum disease may exhibit no symptoms at all, which is why checkup are so important.
Gum Disease Risk Factors
Gum disease can affect anyone. In fact, almost half of Americans over the age of 30 have some form of it, as do 70% of Americans over the age of 65. But some factors may put you at a higher risk.
- Do other members of your family have periodontal disease? If so, you may be more likely to have it yourself, as it does have a genetic component.
- Uncontrolled blood-sugar levels due to diabetes reduces your body’s ability to fight infection and makes you more susceptible to gum disease.
- Certain medications may dry out your mouth, which makes it easier for bacteria to stick around and do their dirty work.
- Women who are pregnant or in menopause are at an increased risk for gum problems, due to hormone fluctuations.
- Smoking and tobacco use increases gum disease risk dramatically. And smokers’ disease tends to be more difficult to treat successfully.
- Clenching or grinding your teeth can wear down tooth enamel and damage the gums. (At Davenport Dental Group, we have solutions to help you break this bad habit.)
- Obesity and/or a poor diet may make you less able to fight off infection and more prone to periodontal disease.
- Stress is a gum-disease double whammy: it can weaken your body’s immune system, and lead to teeth grinding.
- Heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and other systemic diseases may make you more vulnerable to issues with your gums.
How to Keep Your Gums Disease-Free
Here are a few tips to help you keep your gums healthy.
- If you smoke or use other tobacco products, stop. Smoking is one of the biggest gum disease risk factors.
- Practice meticulous oral hygiene, brushing morning and night and flossing daily. Mouthwash helps rinse away bacteria and food particles that your toothbrush missed.
- Visit Davenport Dental Group every six months for a professional cleaning and examination.
- Eat a balanced, nutritious diet. A healthy body is associated with healthier gums.
How We Treat Gum Disease
How your periodontal disease is treated will depend on its severity. Best case scenario is that we discover it early on, before it’s caused much damage. Early-stage gum disease, or gingivitis, is generally reversible with a thorough professional cleaning and stepped-up brushing and flossing habits at home.
If you’ve progressed to later-stage gum disease, or periodontitis, we may perform a deep-cleaning procedure called scaling and root planing. This is done under local anesthesia, and involves removing bacteria that’s accumulated under the gumline. We will also smooth out your tooth roots, which makes them better able to resist plaque and tartar buildup.
Very advanced cases of gum disease may require surgery. If we believe that to be the case for you, we will refer you to a specialist called a periodontist.
If you think you may have gum disease — or you’re due for your twice-yearly checkup — request an appointment through our convenient online form. Or call either one of Davenport Dental Group’s Laredo, TX offices: Junction Drive at 956-242-6745 or Winfield at 956-517-2695.