The terms gum disease and gingivitis are thrown around a lot whenever flossing is brought up, but what exactly are they? Simply put, gum disease is an infection of the gum tissue that surrounds and supports your teeth. It is also one of the most common diseases affecting adults in the US, in part because its progression is largely painless and most people do not realize they have it until their dentist tells them otherwise.
In its early stages, gum disease is called “gingivitis.” If left untreated, gingivitis can develop into periodontitis, a major cause of tooth loss in adults. According to the ADA, it is estimated that 47.2 percent of adults older than 30 have chronic periodontitis. Thus, it’s important to stay informed about the causes and prevention of gingivitis to keep your smile healthy and whole for life!
Gum disease occurs when plaque and calculous (hardened plaque) build up on the tooth along the gum line, irritating and infecting the gums. In addition to poor oral hygiene habits, smoking, and poor nutrition, stress and diabetes can increase the risk of developing gingivitis.
Some early symptoms of gingivitis include persistent bad breath, red or swollen gums, receding gums or teeth that appear longer, bleeding during brushing or flossing, and painful chewing. If you experience any of these, visit your dentist for a professional examination.
The best ways to minimize your risk of developing gum disease are brushing your teeth for three minutes twice daily and flossing at least once daily. In addition to these, avoiding tobacco products, eating a healthy diet low in starches and sugary foods, and using a fluoride-based mouth rinse can provide protection as well.