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Let’s take a look at some simple ways to prevent gum disease

Recent research has shown that while many Irish people assume their oral health is in good order, in actual fact around 80% of us have some kind of gum disease. Here are some handy tips to help reduce your risk of developing gum disease – and also how to spot and treat it when it has already taken hold.

What is gum disease?

There are different types of gum disease – the most common are periodontitis and gingivitis.

Gingivitis

Gingivitis is inflammation of gums at the necks of the teeth. It is the mildest form of gum disease, but if left untreated it can easily develop into the more troublesome periodontitis. Signs to look for include red, swollen or bleeding gums – it does not cause pain or discomfort.

Gingivitis can usually be cleared up with cleaning from your dentist, followed by daily brushing and flossing.

Periodontitis

Periodontitis is inflammation of the bone and tissues of the teeth. If left uncleaned or untreated, plaque on the teeth can spread and grow below the gum line. The toxins in this plaque irritate the gums. This triggers a chronic inflammatory response, where the tissue and bone in the mouth are broken down. This leads to gums separating from the teeth, forming pockets of space that become infected.

The symptoms can be mild in comparison to the true extent of the potential damage being done. If this condition is left untreated, it can lead to loose teeth and even some requiring removal. Treatment may include root planing, which is cleaning underneath the gums by your dentist.

Am I at risk of developing gum disease?

As noted, most Irish adults have some form of gum disease, so you may have it at the moment but be unaware. There are some factors that increase your likelihood of developing gum disease, including:

●  Age – the older you are, the more likely you are to develop it

●  Smoking/using tobacco products

●  Genetics

●  Stress

●  Certain medications

●  Teeth grinding

●  Other diseases (such as diabetes, arthritis or heart disease)

●  Poor diet

How do I know I have it?

There are some telltale signs when it comes to gum disease. Some of the below may be a sign you’ve got gum disease:

●  Bleeding gums

●  Red, swollen, tender gums

●  Gums that are receding from the teeth

●  Persistent bad breath or bad taste in the mouth

●  Loose teeth

●  Sensitive teeth

●  A change in the way the teeth bite together

●  A change in fit to partial dentures

What can I do to treat it and prevent it?

See your dentist straight away if you think you have gum disease. The sooner it is treated, the better! Leaving oral healthcare unchecked can lead to it getting worse, which will require more intensive treatment as time goes on – including the removal of teeth.

The key is developing a good homecare routine. This includes regular tooth brushing, daily flossing, mouthwash and quitting smoking. Regular visits to your dentist will also help.

Looking for more family health tips and information? Click here for more wellness-focussed articles from Vhi