Did you know that September is National Gum Care Month? Did you also know that gum disease is currently an oral health epidemic? In fact, as many as 47.2% of Americans over the age of 30 have some form of gum disease. In honor of National Gum Care Month, here is what you need to know about gum disease:
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease, more formally known as periodontal disease, is an infection of the gums and other periodontal tissues caused by excess plaque and bacteria that accumulate along the gum line. There are two main forms of gum disease with different degrees of severity, including:
Gingivitis is the mild form of gum disease characterized by red, swollen gums that bleed easily when brushing, flossing, or eating. Although gingivitis can be reversed with professional treatment and good oral hygiene, many people don’t realize that they are affected by gingivitis because it does not usually cause discomfort. As a result, many cases of gingivitis go untreated and develop into periodontitis.
Periodontitis is the advanced form of gum disease characterized by plaque that grows below the gum line. The bacteria in plaque irritates the gum tissue and causes an inflammatory response whereby the gums start to pull away from the tooth roots. This creates small pockets where more plaque and bacteria can accumulate, further infecting the gums. As the infection continues and the pockets deepen, the jawbone will eventually start to deteriorate as well. This can cause the teeth to become loose and even fall out.
There are different forms of periodontitis such as:
- Aggressive periodontitis: occurs in patients that are otherwise healthy and is characterized by the rapid formation of periodontal pockets and bone destruction. There is believed to be a genetic predisposition to aggressive periodontitis.
- Chronic periodontitis: the most common form of periodontitis that is prevalent in adults. Chronic periodontitis is characterized by the progressive formation of periodontal pockets and bone loss. This progression usually occurs gradually, however there are also periods of rapid progression that can occur.
- Periodontitis as a manifestation of system diseases: certain systemic conditions can result in periodontitis such as heart disease, respiratory disease, and diabetes. In these cases, periodontitis usually starts at a younger age.
- Necrotizing periodontal disease: an infection primarily seen in individuals who are immunocompromised or malnourished. It is characterized by necrosis of gingival tissues, periodontal ligament, and alveolar bone.
How to Prevent or Manage Gum Disease:
Now that you know a little more about what gum disease is, let’s take a look at how to prevent or manage gum disease. The following strategies work well to prevent gum disease in people with healthy gums, as well as to manage gum disease in people who have already been diagnosed.
Brush & Floss
The foundation of good oral health, as well as the best way to prevent oral health issues like gum disease, is to make sure you are brushing and flossing as directed. According to the American Dental Association, it is recommended to brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste and to floss daily. Both brushing and flossing remove plaque and bacteria from the surface of your teeth, in between your teeth, and along the gum line. It is imperative to do both since brushing tends to get certain areas of your teeth, while flossing focuses on other areas.
Adding mouthwash to your oral hygiene routine is another way to prevent or manage gum disease. Mouthwash helps to remove food particles and bacteria from the inside of your mouth, as well as makes it harder for plaque to adhere to the surface of your teeth. However, using mouthwash should never be used as a replacement for brushing and flossing.
Another way to reduce or manage gum disease is to eat foods that are nutritious and low in sugar. Crunchy fruits and vegetables are ideal snacks that can help clean your mouth while you eat, whereas carbs should be limited since they feed the bacteria responsible for causing gum disease.
Dr. Alina Huang has been practicing dentistry in Manhattan for the last eight years. She was born in New York City, and raised in California where she received her Bachelor’s degree at UCLA, and her D.D.S. at the University of the Pacific in San Francisco. She then made her return to NYC where she completed her General Practice Residency at Montefiore Medical Center and has been working in private practice ever since. She continues her learning by attending courses to stay current with the latest advancements in dentistry and refine her skills.