Gum disease is a bacterial infection that affects the gums and tooth-supporting tissues, which can lead to tooth loss. It is also linked to other health problems such as heart disease and stroke. So, you must start taking care of your oral hygiene now to prevent gum disease from starting and progressing into something more serious. The start of gum disease (gingivitis) is usually caused by the build-up of dental plaque on teeth and gums but several factors contribute to gum disease. In this blog post, how gum disease (gingivitis) starts, and what you can do to reverse it.
What’s Gum Disease?
Gum disease is a bacterial infection that affects the gums and the tissues that surround and support your teeth. It starts with small signs that are usually ignored because it causes no pain. With the progress of the disease, the signs and symptoms become more serious and painful. Gum disease can start in one tooth (localized) or several teeth (generalized) at a time. It can be categorized into:
- Gingivitis: It is a mild form of gum disease. Gingivitis can be reversed by good oral hygiene practices. However, if left untreated, the gum disease (gingivitis) will start to progress into a more serious form, which is known as periodontitis.
- Periodontitis: It is a more advanced stage of gum disease, which destroys the tooth-supporting tissues. Periodontitis can cause tooth loss. It is also linked to other health problems such as heart disease and stroke. You should treat periodontitis immediately to prevent the progress of the disease.
How Do I Recognize The Start of Gum Disease (Gingivitis)?
There are many warning signs and symptoms of gum disease. If you start experiencing any of these, it could be a sign that you’re in the early stage of gum disease (gingivitis). Warning signs and symptoms of gingivitis include:
- Bleeding gums: when you notice blood on the outside of your teeth or in the sink after brushing or flossing, this is one of the early signs of gingivitis.
- Red, swollen gums: the color of the gums will turn from pink to red, due to inflammation. Also, the gums may swell.
- Bad breath: you may notice that you have bad breath even after brushing your teeth every day.
- Mild gum recession: the gums may begin to pull away from your teeth, exposing the tooth roots. Gum recession makes your teeth appear longer than usual and cause tooth sensitivity.
If gingivitis is left untreated, the infection will spread to the tooth-supporting tissues, causing periodontitis. The signs and symptoms of periodontitis, an advanced form of gum disease, include:
- Moderate to severe gum recession: the gums begin to recede away from your teeth making them sensitive or even painful.
- Periodontal pockets: these are holes that form between the roots of your teeth and gums. Bacteria start to build up in these pockets which can cause painful infections.
- Malocclusion: your teeth start to become crooked or misaligned.
- Spaces between teeth: the spaces between your teeth start to widen.
- Tooth loss: If periodontitis isn’t treated, it will destroy the supporting tissues holding your teeth in place, causing tooth mobility and eventually tooth loss.
How Does Gum Disease (Gingivitis) Start?
Dental plaque is a sticky, colorless film of bacteria that forms on your teeth and gums every day. These bacteria break down food (carbohydrates) and produce toxins that irritate the gums, causing inflammation and swelling of the gums. You can remove dental plaque and reverse gingivitis by good oral hygiene practices such as brushing and flossing. However, if plaque is not removed regularly, it will harden into tartar, which can’t be removed by brushing or flossing. Tartar will irritate your gums continuously until you visit your dentist for provisional teeth cleaning.
Other Causes & Risk Factors
The following factors allow bacterial growth, the build-up of plaque, and weaken your immune system, all of which contribute to gum disease.
- Poor oral hygiene habits: not brushing or flossing regularly can cause dental plaque to build upon your teeth and underneath your gums.
- Smoking and tobacco use: tobacco smoke irritates the gums and causes dry mouth, which contributes to gum disease. Smoking also weakens your immune system, making it difficult for your body to fight infections.
- Dry mouth condition: saliva neutralizes acids produced by bacteria. Dry mouth may occur due to smoking or a side effect of some medications.
- Unhealthy diet: plaque bacteria feed on sugary foods and drinks, then produce acids that irritate the gums. Also, vitamin-C deficiency contributes to gum disease.
- Hormonal changes: women are more likely to experience gum disease during pregnancy, puberty, or menopause when their hormones change.
- Age: Older adults are at a higher risk of developing gum disease.
- Diseases and health conditions: people with certain diseases or health conditions may experience gum disease because of their weakened immune system or the medications that they take. These include diabetes, HIV, leukemia, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus.
- Family history: gum disease is genetic. If your parents or siblings have gum disease, it may affect you at a younger age.
7 Tips to Stop The Start of Gum Disease & Reverse Gingivitis
Gum disease is a common problem that affects millions of people every year. However, the start of gum disease can be easily stopped or prevented with these 7 easy steps.
- Brush and floss daily: make sure to brush your teeth at least twice per day for 2 minutes to remove dental plaque from your mouth as well as clean between your teeth and along the gum line. Floss at least once per day to remove food particles, plaque, and bacteria that cannot be removed by brushing alone.
- Use fluoride toothpaste: start using fluoride toothpaste because it helps prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Fluoride toothpaste helps to kill harmful microorganisms in your mouth and preserves oral health.
- Use mouthwash: Mouthwash is an excellent way to reverse gingivitis and prevent further damage caused by gum disease. You should swish it in your mouth for 30 seconds or gargle with it for 2 minutes.
- Brush your tongue: brush your tongue with a soft toothbrush at least once per day. This will remove bacteria and food particles that accumulate on the surface of your tongue. Most people neglect to brush their tongues, which can harbor bacteria and cause bad breath and gum disease.
- Eat healthy foods: eat a healthy diet with lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy products. These foods will help reverse gingivitis. Healthy foods also start to build up your immune system which means that it’s less likely you’ll start gingivitis again in the future.
- Quit smoking: start living a smoke-free lifestyle. You should quit smoking as soon as possible and not wait until your gums are sore or swollen and infected because it will be more difficult to treat gum disease at that point. If you can’t quit smoking, at least smoke in moderation.
- See your dentist regularly: visit your dentist every 6 months for professional teeth cleaning to remove plaque and tartar. Also, to treat gingivitis and prevent its progress into periodontitis.
Gum disease is a bacterial infection that affects your gums and the tooth-supporting tissues. It usually occurs due to plaque build-up on your teeth and poor oral hygiene. The early stage of gum disease is known as gingivitis, which can be reversed by good oral hygiene practices and professional teeth cleaning. If it is left untreated, gingivitis will progress into periodontitis, which damages the tooth-supporting tissues and may lead to tooth loss.
If you have red gums and/or gum bleeding, you shouldn’t ignore them because these signs mean the start of gum disease (gingivitis). So, you should brush and floss your teeth even if it makes your gums bleed more. Also, visit your dentist as soon as possible to remove plaque and tartar, and reverse gingivitis before it progresses into periodontitis.