Periodontal disease symptoms are not obvious. This common gum disease, also known as gingivitis, is usually painless. As with all matters of oral health, proper hygiene and early treatment are essential for stopping gingivitis symptoms in their tracks.
Although most people associate trips to the dentist with their teeth, healthy gums are also an important part of oral hygiene. In a healthy mouth, gums should appear pink and firm to the touch. Puffiness and redness indicate the early signs of gingivitis, as does bleeding during brushing and flossing. Keep in mind that these symptoms do not usually cause pain; if you observe bleeding following brushing and flossing, gingivitis is most likely the culprit.
The Causes of Gingivitis
Improper brushing and flossing is the most common cause of gingivitis, which can result in serious consequences if left untreated. After a person eats, a thin layer of plaque and bacteria form in the mouth. Although brushing removes most of the plaque, tiny bits of bacteria left in between and on the teeth harden into tartar; this is why flossing daily is essential. Tartar protects the bacteria from brushing and flossing, and the bacteria can irritate the gums and causes gingivitis. Unfortunately, at-home brushing and flossing cannot remove the plaque and bacteria once they have hardened into tartar.
There are other risk factors for gingivitis as well. Smoking, diabetes, immune system deficiencies, poor nutrition, dry mouth, hormonal changes, some medications, substance abuse, and other issues can all lead to gingivitis.
Consequences and Treatment
Gingivitis is a direct cause of serious tooth decay problems that can lead to the need for dental surgery such as root canal. Because the dentist can remove hardened-on tartar during a regular cleaning, you can protect yourself from more serious periodontal care simply by scheduling cleanings at 6-month intervals.
Unfortunately, the consequences of gingivitis don’t end with the occasional cavity. Periodontitis, which is gum disease that spreads to the bone and tissue underneath the visible layer of the teeth, can cause tooth loss. Periodontitis is also associated with stroke, premature birth weight, heart attack, and lung disease.
Take Appropriate Action
At your appointment, review your brushing and flossing habits with the dentist. Ask for recommendations on toothpastes, brush types, and mouthwashes. Schedule regular cleanings at 6-month intervals to remove hardened-on tartar, and don’t forget that certain activities — such as quitting smoking and eating a diet packed with healthy nutrients — will benefit your health in more ways than one.