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Are your gums sore and swollen? If your answer is yes, then you might have gum disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), gum disease is a very prevalent health condition in the US, with 47.2% of US adults aged 30 years and above living with some form of gum disease. Sadly, the risk of developing a gum disease also increases as the person ages. Gum disease is a type of condition wherein the gum’s soft tissues and the hard structures that support the teeth are infected and inflamed.

Causes of Gum Disease

Our mouth contains over 500 different types of bacteria; they live on the teeth, tongue, oral mucosa, and other parts of the oral cavity. Studies show that some species of these bacteria can multiply every 20 minutes under ideal conditions. While most of these bacteria are harmless, there are also species of bacteria found in the mouth that can harm oral health. These harmful bacteria thrive in sugars from the food that you eat and produce acid as their waste.

Problems arise when the number of bacteria in the mouth increases and the amount of acid they produce reaches a high level due to poor oral habits and an unhealthy diet. Other factors that may increase your risk of developing gum disease include smoking and hormonal changes, especially in women, diabetes, and certain medications’ side effects.

Types of Gum Disease

Gum disease is categorized into two types based on the severity of the illness.

Stage 1: Gingivitis

Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease and is mostly caused by poor oral hygiene. When food particles are not removed from the teeth and mix with the acids from the bacteria, it is a plaque that sticks to the surfaces of the teeth. This dental plaque can harden when not removed and form tartar and irritate the gums’ soft tissues. Gingivitis is characterized by red and swollen gums that usually bleed when brushing and flossing teeth.

Stage 2: Periodontitis

When gingivitis is left untreated, it can lead to periodontitis. It is a more severe type of gum disease wherein the gums’ tissues are inflamed and damaged. In periodontitis, the gums are pulling away from the teeth, creating pockets. The bacteria can get into these pockets resulting in infections. If periodontitis is not treated, it can result in bone destruction and tooth loss.

Symptoms of Gum Disease

Gum disease may progress slowly. Below are the warning signs that you should watch out for:

  • Bleeding gums during and after brushing or flossing
  • Red and swollen gums
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Persistent foul-smelling breath
  • Gum recession
  • Loose teeth
  • Pockets between teeth and gums
  • Bite problems

Treatments for Gum Disease

Your dentist will be able to diagnose gum disease during your routine dental checkup. Treatments for gum disease depends on the severity of the condition. The main goal is to stop inflammation and infection by improving the health of your gums and teeth. You may be advised for the dental cleaning and prescribed with oral antibiotics. For more serious gum disease, surgery may be recommended.

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