Having a healthy set of teeth builds self-confidence and is an important feature adding to a person’s attractiveness. Regular brushing, flossing and dental checkups can help keep teeth bright and clean, but sometimes things go wrong and you may develop a case of gum disease which is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.
Gingivitis is the name given to the first stage of gum disease. At this point, your gums may be red, swollen and bleed easily when brushed or flossed. Gingivitis is caused by bacteria that grow on the mineralized food particles left in the mouth from poor or missed brushing. The bacteria attack the gums causing the inflammation. At this point, the bone and tissues that hold the teeth in place are usually not damaged and a thorough dental cleaning along with regular brushing and flossing can resolve the problems.
If left untreated, gingivitis can turn into a more serious threat to your teeth. Periodontal disease is the next progression of gingivitis and literally means inflammation around the teeth. Here the gum tissues begin to separate from the teeth forming pockets that trap more food debris and bacteria accelerating the problems. Periodontal disease can advance to the point where the bone and tissues surrounding the teeth cannot hold the tooth in place and it falls out.
While poor dental hygiene is the biggest factor in gum disease, other things can affect whether a person develops gingivitis or periodontal disease. Lifestyle choices such as smoking is highly correlated with gum disease and makes treatment much more difficult. Poor eating habits can also contribute to gum disease, especially for people whose diets are high in sugar content and eat a lot of acidy foods.
Poor nutrition can also lead to diabetes, which is another risk factor for developing gum disease. Diabetes affects how the body processes sugar and can affect circulation and can often result in an increased risk, not only for gum disease but for a variety of infections.
Other diseases can also affect the body’s ability to heal itself such as HIV/AIDS and various cancers. Even some drugs have been shown to have an affect on gum disease. For example, the anticonvulsant drug Dilantin, and the anti-angina drugs Procardia and Adalat all have a measurable affect on gum tissues. Salvia has a protective role to play in reducing gum disease and many over the counter pain relievers can cause a dryness of the mouth reducing the amount of salvia.
Gum disease can also be caused by hormonal changes during pregnancy, menstruation, menopause and puberty can affect the gums making them more sensitive and susceptible to infection and disease. Stress can impact the bodies ability to ward off gum disease as can a predisposition to infection.