Every time you go to the dentist, you see the signs: “Gum disease can increase your risk of heart disease,” “Gum disease is the number one cause of tooth loss,” and “Gum disease can be the cause of your bad breath.” Gum disease talk is just about everywhere in the dental field, and there’s little wonder why. All of the above is absolutely true. When gum disease progresses past its early stages, it can increase your risk of some pretty serious illnesses. It can cause tooth loss, and permanently damage your mouth. Trust us: You don’t want it.
But what exactly is gum disease and how do you prevent it?
What Is Gum Disease?
To start with the basics, gum disease is essentially a bacterial infection. Much like when a cut gets infected, and the skin around it becomes red, swollen, and warm to the touch, the same process is happening in the periodontal tissue (gums) inside your mouth. But there’s a big difference: the majority of gum-disease-causing bacteria is already present within your mouth.
In fact, at any given time, there are around 8 billion bacteria living inside your oral cavity. Of these 8 billion, it’s estimated they belong to around 700+ different species, with more being discovered every year, all in charge of different things. Some help to break down proteins, others help to pre-digest fats, and some strictly work to keep other invading bacteria out. For the most part, all of these bacteria work in tandem to do their job, and also to make sure no one species gets an edge.
Disrupting the Bacteria Ecosystem
There are many bacteria known to be gum disease troublemakers. When your diet favors sugary foods or you aren’t cleaning regularly, these bacteria overpopulate the mouth, creating biofilm, also known as plaque, that can damage the teeth and gums. Ultimately, this is what gum disease is: too much of certain bacteria. Sensing this shift, surrounding tissue will become inflammed to keep bacteria out of places it shouldn’t be, and this inflammation can actually be the problem. Although a little inflammation is useful, chronic inflammation can damage gum tissue and teeth.
Once gum disease progresses past the early stages, it can cause the gums to recede and tooth structure to become compromised. That’s because underneath the gums attached to the root of your teeth is what’s known as the periodontal ligament. If bacteria get this far into the teeth, this ligament can also become inflamed, eventually coming loose altogether.
How to Prevent Gum Disease
Preventing gum disease is simpler than you might think. Brush your teeth twice a day, floss once, and visit your dentist for a checkup and cleaning every six months. The key to preventing gum disease is helping your bacteria to regulate itself, by cleaning food particles before they can be consumed by your bacteria.
If you’re looking for a dentist who can help preserve, protect, and promote your oral health, please call (907) 349-0022 or contact us today for an appointment at Excellence in Dentistry.