disease (also called periodontal disease) is an infection of the tissues
surrounding and supporting the teeth. It is a major cause of tooth loss
in adults. In fact, after age 35, about three out of four adults are affected
by some form of gum disease.
Gum disease is caused by plaque, a sticky
film of bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth. These bacteria create
toxins that can damage the gums. In the early stage of gum disease, called
gingivitis, the gums can become red, swollen and bleed easily. At this
stage, the disease is still reversible and can usually be eliminated by
daily brushing and flossing.
Because gum disease is usually painless,
however, you may not know you have it. In the more advanced stages of
gum disease, called periodontitis, the gums and bone that support the
teeth can become seriously damaged. The teeth can become loose, fall out
or have to be removed by a dentist.
Signs of gum disease
If you notice any of the following signs
of gum disease, see your dentist immediately:
- gums that bleed when you brush your
- red, swollen or tender gums
- gums that have pulled away from the
- bad breath that doesn't go away
- pus between your teeth and gums
- loose teeth
- a change in the way your teeth fit together
when you bite
- a change in the fit of partial dentures
||Normal, healthy gums
Healthy gums and bone anchor teeth firmly in place.
Unremoved, plaque hardens into calculus (tartar). As plaque and
calculus continue to build up, the gums begin to recede (pull away)
from the teeth, and pockets form between the teeth and gums.
The gums recede farther, destroying more bone and the periodontal
ligament. Teeth even healthy teeth may become loose
and need to be extracted.
Preventing gum disease
The good news is that you can help prevent
gum disease by taking good care of your teeth every day and having regular
dental checkups. Here's how to keep your teeth and gums healthy:
- Brush your teeth well twice a day.
This removes the film of bacteria from the teeth. Be sure to use a soft-bristled
toothbrush that is in good condition. Toothpastes and mouth rinses containing
fluoride strengthen the teeth and help prevent decay. Choose products
that bear the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance, a symbol
of a product's safety and effectiveness. The ADA reviews all advertising
claims for any product bearing the Seal. The Seal on a product is an
assurance for consumers and dentists against misleading or untrue statements
concerning a product and its use, safety and effectiveness.
- Clean between your teeth every day.
Cleaning between your teeth with floss or interdental cleaners removes
bacteria and food particles from between the teeth, where a toothbrush
can't reach. Early gum disease can often be reversed by daily brushing
and flossing. If you use interdental cleaners, ask your dentist how
to use them properly, to avoid injuring your gums.
- Eat a balanced diet.
Choose a variety of foods from the basic food groups, such as breads,
cereals and other grain products; fruits; vegetables; meat, poultry
and fish; and dairy products, such as milk, cheese and yogurt. Limit
- Visit your dentist regularly.
It is important to have regular dental checkups, and professional cleaning
is essential to prevent periodontal diseases.