By Judith Nembhard
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What is gum disease?
Gum disease is when the gum tissue surrounding and supporting the teeth becomes inflamed due to infection. The condition can begin as mild redness and tenderness, but if it continues to progress, it can cause the teeth to become loose or even fall out. The Mayo Clinic says gum disease is a “serious infection that destroys the soft tissue and bone that support your teeth.”
What causes it?
The culprit is plaque, the sticky layer of germs constantly forming on the teeth. If plaque remains in the mouth longer than two or three days, it can harden under your gumline into a crust called tartar, which only a dentist can remove. Plaque and tartar that remain on the teeth serve as a breeding place for more bacteria—the longer they stay on the teeth, the more harm done. Gum disease begins as gingivitis, the mildest form of periodontal disease. But if it continues to remain untreated, it can advance to full-blown periodontitis, leading to loss of tissue and bone, and potentially, the loss of one or more teeth.
What are warning signs?
According to the Mayo Clinic, specific warning signs of periodontitis include swollen gums, bright red or purplish gums, and gums that are tender to the touch. In more advanced cases, the gums pull away from the teeth making them look longer than normal, and pus can pool in the new pockets between the teeth and gums. Loose teeth, bad breath, and changes in the way the teeth fit together are other signs of gum disease.
How can I prevent it?
Gum disease is common, but dentists say it’s highly preventable through proper oral hygiene. Brushing, flossing daily, and having regular professional dental cleanings can greatly reduce the possibility of developing the disease.