Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a progressive bacterial infection that irritates, inflames, and eventually destroys gum tissue. If you fail to brush, floss, and get regular dental checkups, it can become entrenched and worsen over time. It’s a serious problem in the United States, as about half of adults over age 30 show signs of gum disease, and it’s the leading cause of tooth loss.

At Virginia H. Ellis, DDS Dental Corp. in Orinda, California, Dr. Ellis and her team offer periodontics evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment. Here, the team discusses your risk for developing gum disease and five smart habits for lowering your risk and protecting your oral health.

The nature of gum disease

Maintaining your oral health depends on brushing twice a day, flossing once a day, and visiting the dentist for professional cleanings and checkups twice a year. If you’re a little lax with your routine, bacteria can build up on the teeth and gums and form a sticky plaque. The plaque can then irritate the gums, which can then lead to redness, tenderness, and gums that bleed easily. This early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis.

Left untreated, the plaque can harden into tartar at and below the gum line, creating additional inflammation and progressing into periodontitis, a more severe form of gum disease. With periodontitis, the gums swell, turn a dark red color, become painful when eating, and begin to pull back from the tooth roots. This recession creates additional pockets where tartar and bacteria can continue to build up, perpetuating the problem.

In the final stage of gum disease, the gums pull completely away from the teeth, leaving their roots exposed. This leads to temperature sensitivity and a weakening of the connective tissue holding the teeth in place. Teeth loosen in their sockets and may even fall out. And the persistent infection destroys both gum and bone tissue.

Recognizing the early signs of gum disease

Learning to recognize the early signs of gum disease can help you know when to seek medical help. Healthy gums should be pale pink, firm, and fit snugly around the tooth roots. Signs of gum disease include:

  • Swelling
  • Dark red color
  • Gums that bleed easily
  • Bad breath
  • Receding gum line
  • Soreness/tenderness

If you notice any of these signs, schedule an appointment with Dr. Ellis. The earlier she treats the problem, the greater her chances will be of being able to reverse any damage to your gums.

Five smart habits for lowering your risk for gum disease

To lower your risk of developing gum disease, here are five smart habits you can adopt:

1. Quit smoking

Smoking dehydrates your teeth and gums, leads to plaque buildup, and impedes your ability to heal. Stopping not only improves your oral health, but your overall health as well.

2. Adopt healthy eating habits

If your cells aren’t getting the nutrients they need to function normally and heal properly, you’re more at risk for gum disease. By eating a well-balanced diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, grains, and lean proteins, you can help make sure your teeth and gums get the nutrition they need.

3. Lose excess weight

Obesity stresses all of your body’s cells, including your gum tissue. It may lead to high blood sugar levels, prediabetes, and even diabetes, all of which can damage your gums. By committing to a healthy, lower-calorie diet and increased exercise, you can help ensure better oral and overall health.

4. Treat underlying conditions

Some underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, can wreak havoc with your dental health. It’s important that you see your primary care doctor or specialist to help get the problem under control in addition to maintaining a healthy dental routine. Your mouth will thank you.

5. Drink plenty of fluids

Fluids are not only necessary to keep your body’s tissues hydrated, but they also increase saliva production, and saliva helps wash away bacteria and debris. Aim to drink eight cups of water a day, and rinse your mouth with water after meals to increase its effectiveness.

And if you’re showing any signs of early gum disease, come to the office right away. We’ll perform a thorough evaluation and give you the help you need. To learn more, call (925) 272-2698 or book an appointment online with Virginia H. Ellis, DDS Dental Corp. today.