‘Fess up. You don’t floss often. And that makes you at high risk for periodontal – or gum – disease.
We all have bacteria in our mouths that can grow and irritate our teeth and gums. Bacteria can eat away at the enamel of our teeth, causing cavities. It also can attack our gums, which become inflamed and bleed.
Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gums caused by bacteria. If untreated, it turns into periodontitis, or gum disease. Gums start to pull away from the teeth, forming pockets that collect debris. These can become even more infected and can result in the destruction of teeth and gums. In severe cases, gum disease can lead to tooth loss.
How do you know you have gum disease? Look out for these symptoms:
• Gums that bleed or swell after brushing.
• Bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth.
• Teeth that have shifted or are loose in your mouth.
• Changes in your bite or how your dentures fit.
Gum disease can occur if you don’t brush or floss regularly. Other medical conditions can also lead to gum disease. Hormonal changes like puberty, pregnancy and menopause can contribute to gum disease.
Certain medications dry up saliva, making it more difficult to wash away food and debris in the mouth and that can result in gum disease. Some diseases, like HIV or cancer, disrupt the immune system and individuals are at higher risk of developing infections.
Your dentist can diagnose gum disease by looking in your mouth for red, swollen gums or large deposits of plaque and tartar. And if you’ve ever heard your dentist calling out numbers while checking your gums, he or she is measuring the size of your gum pockets. Dentists use a probe to measure the depths of these periodontal pockets, and the larger the number, the more severe the problem.
It’s not too late to treat periodontal disease! See your dentist and find out why floss is boss.