It may only be September, but if you’re anything like us, you’ve already adorned your front lawn with pumpkins and cobwebs for the Halloween season! Speaking of Halloween, one of the scariest things to ever enter our home is already lurking about – gum disease. After a long summer of licking popsicles and roasting s’ mores, all those nights we stayed out late and forgot to floss are coming back to haunt us.
More likely than not, you probably have some form of gum disease. In fact, gingivitis, the mildest form of gum disease, is so prevalent that approximately 1 in 2 Americans have it according to the Center for Disease Control. Just because almost everyone has it, however, doesn’t mean you or your family should!
Gingivitis is completely preventable with proper brushing and flossing. Seeing as we’re heading into the season of pumpkin spice and candy corn, it’s the perfect time to face your fears about gum disease before it’s too late. Our pediatric dentist at Epic Dentistry for Kids in Aurora can help explain how gum disease works and how to get rid of it!
Do I have gum disease?
If you’re seeing more real blood when you floss than fake blood from Halloween decorations this time of year, then yes, you probably have gum disease. Symptoms of gum disease include:
- Tooth sensitivity
- Persistent bad breath
- Bleeding around gums when flossing, brushing, or eating
- Red, puffy, swollen, inflamed gums
- Receding gum line
- Mouth sores
- Loose teeth
The last few symptoms are probably a symptom of a serious condition called periodontitis. Call your pediatric dentist immediately if you’re experiencing these problems.
Otherwise, you probably have a mild version of gum disease like gingivitis. Gingivitis is characterized by swollen gums and bleeding when flossing. Most people don’t even know they have gingivitis until they visit the dentist because they don’t floss. In that sense, gum disease really is like a ghost! It’s just secretly hiding in your mouth, wreaking havoc undetected.
That’s why it is super important to floss regularly. Brushing is great for removing plaque on the surface of the teeth, but most brushes can’t reach tight crevices between your teeth.
What causes gum disease?
Gum disease is caused by a bacterial infection from built-up plaque. When plaque hardens, it becomes tartar. This tartar is hard and difficult to remove without professional assistance. It can cause an immune response and inflammation. Left untreated, the bacteria from gum disease can deteriorate your gums, teeth, and even bones! Yikes!
For those who don’t know, plaque is a sticky, clear mixture of bacteria, saliva, and acid. The bacteria feed on sugar in your food to create this acid.
Although everyone probably has some level of plaque on their teeth, not everyone has gum disease. Why is that? Well, if you are diligent with your oral hygiene, diet, and overall dental health, you can stop the plaque from building up around your gums. Below are the most common factors that contribute to gum disease:
We hate to break it to you, but sugar is the #1 cause of cavities and gum disease. Bacteria like sugar even more than you do and they use it to wreck your teeth. And we’re not just talking about trick-or-treating candy sugar! Juice, bread, milk, and the like. also contain carbohydrates that break down into sugar, too.
Too much sugar is bad, but too little food is worse! Not getting enough nutrients from food can take a toll on your gums. Your gums need vitamins C & D, phosphates, iron, folate, calcium, and potassium to function well. Vitamin and mineral deficiency can also compromise your immune system, making it difficult for your body to fight off infection from bacteria, no matter how small.
Irregular brushing and flossing
In theory, brushing and flossing is a no-brainer, but in reality, it can actually be pretty tough to remember to do it every single day, twice a day. Unfortunately, there’s no way to get around this one. If you don’t brush and floss properly, it’ll show on your gums. It only takes 24 hours for plaque to harden into tartar!
Missed dental exams
The pediatric dentist can detect signs of gum disease and help you fight it, but only if you go see them! Regular dental exams and cleanings are crucial for removing tartar in those hidden, hard-to-reach spots that you wouldn’t be aware of otherwise. The pediatric dentist can also show you how to brush and floss properly, so you know your efforts aren’t futile.
Products like chewing tobacco and cigarettes can really damage your gums. They expose you to dangerous carcinogens that compromise your immune system and gum health. Even if you don’t consume sugar, you may suffer from gum disease if you smoke or chew tobacco every day.
Okay, so you can’t exactly control your genetics, but you can take extra precautions if you know you are genetically predisposed to getting gum disease. Some people are more likely to develop gum disease than others, but they can take brush, floss, and eat extra carefully to prevent that from happening.
How do I get rid of gum disease?
There’s no one-stop solution for getting rid of gum disease, but seeing the dentist can alleviate symptoms greatly. The most common treatments for gum disease include:
Yes, it’s that simple. Gingivitis is something that needs to be treated daily with brushing and flossing, but a professional dental cleaning can really improve your dental health. The dentist can see and clean problem areas that are causing the most distress. Since gum disease is caused by tartar buildup on or below the gum line, you can get that tartar professionally removed by the dentist.
Bacteria are to blame for gum disease. One way to get rid of the bad bacteria is by using antibiotic medication prescribed by your dentist. This can take the form of a mouthwash, topical gel, or tablet. The medication will eliminate bad bacteria in the mouth, thus reducing the amount of plaque on the gums. You can usually get this medicine at your local pharmacy in Aurora.
For periodontitis, gum surgery or bone and tissue grafts can restore the function of deteriorated teeth and bones.
How do I prevent gum disease?
Unlike the chicken pox, gum disease does not go away indefinitely after you get rid of it the first time. If you are not consistently working to prevent gum disease, it will definitely return.
To defeat gum disease, you have to nip it at the roots. Literally. Plaque tends to build up around and under the gum line where it causes the gums to swell and bleed from irritation. To prevent this from happening, make sure to floss thoroughly below the gum line, getting as deep as you comfortably can.
Using an antibacterial floss will help kill the bacteria that cause dental decay and gum disease. Most importantly, you have to practice flossing properly every day. Otherwise, the plaque will calcify into tartar and by then, no flossing will be able to help your gums!
Your diet also affects your gum health. By maintaining a nutritious diet with plenty of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, you can prevent gum disease.
Even though Halloween seems like it’s a long time from now, we encourage you to plan ahead for the big day! If you plan to gorge yourself on bowls of candy (as we do), then make sure to limit your sweets on the days leading up to then. And promise us you intend to floss after your candy binge!
If you have any more questions about gum disease, you can talk to our pediatric dentist in Aurora, Dr. Patterson. Leave the spooky scary stuff for Halloween, not your oral health and bust your gingivitis today!