What is gum disease?
Gum disease is an infection of the bone and soft tissues that support the teeth (also known as periodontal disease). When your dentist mentions gingivitis, it refers to the mildest or moderate form of gum disease that only affects soft tissues.
More advanced forms of the disease infect bones and supporting structures of the teeth. This can eventually lead to tooth loss if left untreated.
What causes gum disease?
A number of factors can contribute to your risk of developing gum disease, including plaque and bacteria buildup in the mouth, hormonal shifts, smoking, nutritional deficiencies, some prescription medications, uneven teeth and even genetics.
Bleeding gums are a clue that you may have gum disease, which is why you should schedule an appointment with your dentist if you notice that your gums are bleeding. Because your mouth contains millions of bacteria, great oral hygiene every day is a must - to disrupt the bacteria.
If you leave it for too long, your body will try to rid itself of the bacteria by sending more blood to your gums. Swelling, soreness, bleeding, and redness may result from an excess of blood. Your body believes it has an infection, which is known as gingivitis, and it will not heal unless the source of the infection is removed.
Bacteria can be found in plaque, tartar or calculus, pockets beneath the gums (in cases of advanced gum disease), cavities, abscesses and chipped teeth. They may also hide in old dental work, as repairs to your teeth create an edge or margin that bacteria can adhere to.
What can I do to avoid gum disease?
There are no real 'tips and tricks' when it comes to avoiding gum disease. The best way to avoid developing gum disease is to maintain good oral hygiene habits, plain and simple.
None of the above-listed factors alone can cause gum disease to develop and thrive. If you maintain a rigorous and thorough oral hygiene routine, it will be very difficult for gum disease to start to take hold.
For example, while you may be prone to plaque buildup (perhaps due to genetics), as long as you brush and floss your teeth twice a day and visit your dentist as prescribed for regular professional cleanings and checkups, chances are that gum disease will not be able to fully develop.
Whether due to a hormonal shift caused by pregnancy, taking prescription medication, or being a regular smoker, the most common cause of gum disease is the unchecked development of bacteria and plaque in the mouth.
A good oral hygiene routine can usually prevent gum disease. While the issues listed above can raise your risk (and make prevention more difficult), whether it develops is determined by the daily decisions you make about your oral health practices.