Oral Health: What You Need to Know to Avoid Gum Disease


You may not have heard of Periodontal Disease, if you visit your dentist regularly and you haven’t – that’s probably a good sign! Poor dental hygiene can lead to problems that are more severe than the average cavity or case of bad breath. Periodontal Disease is also known as Gum Disease and almost 50% of adults have some form it. Gum disease is most commonly the result of poor dental hygiene and is the inflammation of the tissue around the teeth, according to www.medicinenet.com. Here’s the scary part – if left untreated, it can lead to even more serious problems, ranging from tooth loss to heart disease. Knowing the signs, symptoms, and treatment for various stages of gum disease can set you on a proactive path to avoid gum disease and a disappointing dental visit.

Signs & Symptoms of Gum Disease

Do your gums bleed when you brush your teeth? If so, you can assume your gums are sick. Symptoms are key … if you are experiencing ANY gum bleeding, notice any gum pain or mouth sores, and/or pick up on a sour taste in your mouth, do not hesitate – it’s time to schedule a visit to your dentist! Remember, you can avoid gum disease and reverse the early stages of Gum Disease, but the only way to keep Gingivitis from progressing into Periodontal Disease and other problems is dental treatment.

Someone with gum disease may have the following symptoms/signs:

  • White spots on the gums
  • Gums that are pulling away from the teeth or receding gums
  • Painful to chew
  • Sensitive teeth and gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Bright red, swollen, tender gums
  • Gums that bleed easily – even during normal daily cleaning
  • You may have a bad taste in your mouth or bad breath
  • Uneven bite
  • Ill-fitting dentures

If you are unsure if your symptoms are caused by gum disease, consult your dentist for clarification and make sure to stay on top of regular scheduled professional dental cleanings to reduce your risks.

Related Article: The Dangers of Gum Disease

Stages of Gum Disease

  • Early Stage: Gingivitis – this early stage of gum disease is characterized by the inflammation of the gums and is usually caused by an abundance of tartar or plaque in the mouth. Often, swollen gums bleed easily when brushing or flossing and this beginning stage of the disease is a warning sign to a more serious condition, Periodontitis.
  • Progressed Stage: Periodontitis – If Gingivitis progresses, plaque will extend from the gums to the bone. Once the bone gets the infection, they can form deep gum pockets and collect even more bacteria and plaque and can lead to bone loss or even tooth loss. However, there are different forms of Periodontitis and it is more serious than it may seem at first.
    • Aggressive Periodontitis:
      • rapid gum recession
      • occurring during a period of growth in young people
      • due to vitamin depletion, not bacteria
    • Chronic Periodontitis: 
      • periods of rapid progression and then periods of remission
      • can happen on its own or in response to dental treatment

Periodontal disease starts with a sticky film of plaque bacteria that forms on your teeth, just like tooth decay (when you’re getting a cavity). If plaque is not removed, it will collect around your gum line and they’ll become inflamed and irritated. This early stage of gum disease is called Gingivitis. The good news is that it can be reversed easily with consistent and thorough brushing and flossing.

However, if it is not removed regularly, this plaque will harden into tartar. Your gums become increasingly red, swollen, and inflamed as tartar builds up around the gum line and they will eventually pull away from the tooth, forming a loose pocket. As more bacteria and tarter accumulate in these “pockets”, the destructive toxins begin to infect and destroy the gums, bone and ligaments that support your teeth. This advanced phase of Gum Disease is called Periodontitis, or Periodontal Disease. If left untreated, periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss, because the gums can no longer hold your teeth in place.

Tooth Loss Statistics

It’s our goal to help you to avoid gum disease all together, so here are a few staggering statistics we’d like to share with you:

  • Missing 1 tooth: the average person age 20-39
  • Missing 3+ teeth: the average 40-49-year old
  • Missing 8 teeth: the average 60+ person

We know what you’re thinking … I had my 4 wisdom teeth pulled!! No wonder these numbers are so high!!

Bad News: These statistics do NOT include wisdom teeth that have been removed AND this tooth loss is typically caused by gum disease.

Related Article: Tooth Replacement Options: Implants, Dentures, Implant-Supported Dentures

Prevention Methods and Treatment

Gum disease is extremely common among adults, but the good news is that it can be easily prevented with good, daily dental care. Hygiene within your mouth is linked to your overall wellbeing, so the importance of preventing gum disease is high. By simply brushing and flossing daily, as well as getting regular professional cleanings from your dentist are all it takes to avoid gum disease or heavily reduce your risk for gum disease.

However, if gum disease is found, usually the treatment method is simple and your dentist will usually recommend upping your normal hygiene routine at home; making sure you are following the recommended daily guidelines. If Periodontitis is found, a deeper cleaning may be needed to remove the high levels of plaque and bacteria that has infiltrated your gums and bone. This treatment is often called Scaling or Root Planing.

Related Article: Gum Disease Treatments by WebMD

Gum Disease Can Affect More Than Your Smile

Cosmetic: It’s a well-known fact that people with a healthy smile tend to look younger. However, Periodontitis affects much more than the aesthetic look of your pearly white smile and is important for more than cosmetic reasons.

Function: It’s also easy to understand that it’s easier to talk and chew when your teeth are functional and it’s less costly to keep all of your own teeth.

Overall Health: Gum disease is also a systemic disease that is related to the body’s reaction to bacteria that can have far-reaching effects on your overall health. By completely avoiding periodontal disease or treating it, you’re helping to protect your body from other systemic inflammatory conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and autoimmune conditions. As well as, osteoporosis, respiratory disease, and cancer.

Gum Disease and Stress: You may think about stress being a factor behind many health problems, but the truth is, stress can also have a negative effect on your oral health as well. Stress can make it harder for our bodies to fight viruses and other harmful bacteria in the body, leaving you more vulnerable to infections. This means that if you’re dealing with gum disease, your body will have a harder time dealing with it and healing.

Teeth grinding, gum disease, and bruxism can all be results from too much stress in your life. Also, if stress is causing you to grind your teeth, smoke cigarettes, or clench your jaw, then it could contribute to gum disease as well. Stress can also make us forget to brush and floss as often as needed, so remember to stay on top of your oral health and self-care routines at home.

Related Article: Regular Dental Exams Prevent Decay and Health Issues

What do Healthy Gums Look Like?

Healthy gums are pink, firm, and they do not bleed.

Avoid gum disease by keeping your gums firm, pink and healthy isn’t difficult, but it does require consistent healthy oral care habits. Your main focus is to always keep the harmful oral bacteria to a minimum!

Daily Tips & Tricks for Healthy Gums:

  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste to brush thoroughly at least twice a day.
  • Replace toothbrushes every 3 months; frayed bristles don’t clean as well (and old toothbrushes can store bacteria).
  • Flossing once a day is a must.
  • Rinse with an antimicrobial mouthwash to reduce bacteria in the mouth.
  • Fight dry mouth by sipping water throughout the day, chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless lozenges. Dry mouth creates an environment where bacteria can thrive. Numerous medications and certain illnesses can cause dry mouth.
  • Schedule routine dental appointments every 6 months that include a professional cleaning.
  • Stop Smoking! Tobacco, of any kind, increases the risk of gum disease and makes it harder for gums to heal.
  • DO NOT VAPE! Vaping is not an alternative, even if you’re not using nicotine.
  • If you are Diabetic, you need to be diligent about keeping your diabetes under control, since high sugar levels can increase your risk for gum disease.
  • Opt for healthy snacks. Healthy foods can help lower the risk of gum disease. Bacteria love sugar, so as an alternative, consume water, milk, yogurts, apples, and other healthy options.

If you have children, take this opportunity to review their dental care routines and emphasize the importance of daily tooth care. A clean mouth can´t get sick!

Related Article: Oral Cancer and Gum Disease: Early Detection can Save Your Life!

When almost half of Americans suffer some form of gum disease, why wait?

Now you understand why keeping your gums healthy is such an important task – they keep your teeth in place! AND you know what to do to help keep you and your smile in the best possible health and avoid Gum Disease.

At the offices of Thomas L. Anderson, DDS and Associates, we take your oral health seriously and want to help you avoid gum disease by checking your oral health and every scheduled cleaning. We are also happy to answer any gum disease questions you have. Take the time to be extra diligent in your normal oral health routine to reduce your risk for gum disease.

If you have questions or concerns about your gum health, please give us a call, Dr. Anderson and his experienced dental team will be happy to schedule your dental appointment and help you keep your gums, teeth and mouth healthy. Please call our office at 816-373-4440 to schedule your dental appointment.

Contact us today to schedule your dental appointment and meet with our skilled dentists at one of our three conveniently located dental office locations within the Kansas City area, including Lee’s Summit / Independence, the Country Club Plaza and Downtown Kansas City. The gentle dentists and expert team at Thomas L. Anderson and Associates look forward to working with you to treat your dental emergency, achieve proper oral health and a beautiful smile that will last a lifetime. If you have any questions about your dental insurance benefits, please do not hesitate to contact us.  We are happy to review your policy! Please give us a call today to schedule an appointment and become part of our dental family.