Untreated gum disease ranks as one of the world’s most widespread health problems, negatively impacting the oral and overall health of people everywhere. In recent years, a growing amount of research has found significant links between gum disease and a number of chronic health problems that include stroke, diabetes, dementia, arthritis, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. While researchers have yet to determine a clear cause and effect relationship between gum disease and these types of diseases, it’s clear that our oral health matters more than just the state of our teeth and gums.
Fortunately, you can avoid the development of gum disease – commonly referred to as gingivitis – by brushing and flossing daily, and by scheduling regular visits to see your dentist in Clackamas. So that you have the tools to lower your risk of gum disease, it’s important to know what causes gingivitis and how to prevent the disease’s development. With that in mind, here’s what you need to know about gum disease.
What is Gingivitis?
Gingivitis means inflammation of the gingiva, or gum tissue, and it is a wildly common early stage of gum disease. In its early stages, gingivitis often develops as gums that appear red, swollen, and that bleed easily after brushing or flossing.
However, many patients – especially those who don’t regularly see their dentist in Clackamas – never know they even suffer from gingivitis until the disease has progressed into the far more serious periodontitis, a severe form of gum disease and leading cause of permanent tooth loss in adults in the U.S. A failure to identify gum disease early on allows the disease to progress, leading to the permanent damage of gum tissue and the supporting bone structure that holds our teeth in position.
At our Clackamas dental office, we see many patients who suffer from gingivitis, most often as a result of not flossing or properly brushing around the gum line. But why does neglecting to floss now and then lead to gum problems?
The Dangers of Oral Bacteria
Microscopic bacteria and a sticky biofilm known as plaque cause tooth decay and cavities. That’s why everyone learns to brush their teeth from an early age and to seek regular dental care. But often, we don’t learn that bacteria impacts our gums just as much as our tooth enamel.
When we don’t properly clean plaque and bacteria from the gum line, these substances stay there and begin to rapidly multiply. Hidden in the area between our teeth and gum tissue, these harmful substances form colonies protected by an extracellular matrix, which acts as a barrier that allows plaque to thrive.
Once plaque has established a foothold in your mouth, the bacteria eat all the sugars left behind after you eat. They metabolize these sugars, just as the body does, but the problem is that their metabolic byproducts are acidic and severely irritate your body’s gum tissue.
Your body responds to this irritation through its inflammatory process: redness, swelling, and a higher temp in the inflamed area. This reaction commonly results in pain, and can produce bad breath! It’s also the reason why flossing daily shouldn’t be skipped; it takes almost no time at all for bacteria to multiply and cause harm.
Gingivitis is Just the Beginning
The symptoms of gingivitis are uncomfortable, but they can be reversed with strict dental hygiene and attention to a cleaner gumline. The real fear dentists have with persistent gingivitis is the onset of periodontitis, which is a much more serious gum disease. If left untreated and allowed to worsen, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis.
In periodontitis, the gums start to pull back from the teeth in response to the constant harassment of bacterial acid. Complications of periodontitis run the gamut from recessed, sore gums to loss of teeth and oral ulcers, to bone abscesses and eventual bone loss.
Your Dentist in Clackamas can Protect Your Oral Health
While all the news about gingivitis may seem horrifying, it’s a cautionary tale. That’s because gingivitis is almost exclusively avoidable through proper oral hygiene and by scheduling regular visits with your dentist in Clackamas.
Flossing at least once a day and paying special attention to the gum line when you brush is the best way to avoid gum disease, as well as improving your breath.
Don’t underestimate the harm gingivitis can cause your long-erm oral and overall health. Brush, floss, and schedule regular visits with Dr. Suess. Your gums will thank you.