Health A to Z

Gum disease

Preventable and treatable, here’s how to avoid gum disease and keep your pearly whites in tip-top form.

Gum disease causes prevention treatment

You may think that you’re too young to worry about receding gums but you’d be mistaken. Gum disease is a common dental problem that affects the attachment between the gums and the teeth, according to the Canadian Dental Association, and it can begin at any age; the condition develops slowly and often with no pain. Evidence suggests that people with gum disease are at greater risk for developing heart disease.

Gum disease causes When plaque is not removed from teeth daily by brushing and flossing, it hardens into tartar, which can lead to gingivitis. When gingivitis worsens, infection forms where the teeth attach to the gums, breaking down the gum tissue. Left untreated, gum disease may lead to tooth infection and loss.

Gum disease symptoms Brushing teeth may cause redness and bleeding. As gingivitis worsens, the gums may be puffy, swollen or bleeding. Sensitive teeth, persistent bad breath or a taste of metal are also signs of gum disease.

Gum disease diagnosis/tests If you have the symptoms of gum disease, make an appointment with your dentist who will discuss your personal dental care and take your medical history to determine if you have any underlying conditions that might be causing the problem. She’ll inspect the shape and colour of your gyms for redness and puffiness, possibly using a mirror and periodontal probe, to see how much your gums are receding, and check to see if your teeth move which can indicate loss of the supporting bone. It’s also possible she will do a series of X-rays of your teeth to check for bone loss. Your dentist may refer you to a periodontist, an expert specializing in gum disease.

Gum disease treatment Gum disease is treatable. In the early stages, cleaning by a dentist or hygienist will remove plaque and tartar. If gum disease is more advanced, a periodontist who specializes in treating gum disease and restoring bone and gum tissue, may be involved in treatment.

Gum disease prevention Gum disease is preventable. Practice good oral hygiene: Brush at least twice daily, floss at least once a day and see your dentist regularly for cleanings and check-ups so she can spot any early signs of the disease.

Outside resources
Canadian Dental Association
Canadian Academy of Periodontology

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