Now that the calendar has rolled over to 2013, the time has come to fulfill those New Year resolutions. Whether you pledged to lose weight, quit smoking, start a new career, or finally find that someone special, you should consider adding one more resolution to your list- to take better care of your gums.
If you suffer from sore, red gums that bleed occasionally from brushing, you may have gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease. Approximately 75 percent of all adults in the U.S. will deal with some form of gum disease at one point in their lives, according to research conducted by the American Dental Association. Even though most people will eventually deal with gingivitis, the mild symptoms associated with the early stages of the disease make it easy to overlook.
However, just because you can overlook the inconvenience of sore gums doesn’t mean that should ignore the problem. Treating gum disease at an early stage can help prevent it from developing into periodontitis, a more severe form of the disease and one of the leading causes of tooth loss. Fortunately, by receiving proper dental care, you can reverse gingivitis and repair the damage done.
The Causes of Gingivitis
When you fail to practice proper oral hygiene by brushing and flossing daily, you allow plaque, a sticky bacteria filled biofilm, to buildup in your mouth. When you consume sugars, plaque produces acids that slowly erode away tooth enamel, eventually leading to decay. Once left on your teeth for at least 72 hours, plaque begins to harden into tartar, which can only be removed from your teeth by a dentist. Tartar builds up along the gum line, and makes it difficult to properly clean your teeth and gums when brushing. Over time, these deposits of plaque and tartar begin to irritate and inflame your gum tissue, causing gingivitis.
The Symptoms of Gingivitis
While early symptoms of gingivitis are so mild as to be unnoticeable, the disease can progress into some mild, but noticeable, symptoms. These can include:
- Red, Purplish, or inflamed gums. Healthy gums should appear bright pink and firm.
- Bleeding gums. You might begin to notice blood along the gum line or mixed in with your toothpaste when you spit it out.
- Your gums become sore and tender to the touch.
- You develop mouth sores.
If you suffer from these symptoms and suspect you might have gingivitis, you should begin examining your oral health habits for areas that you could improve. If, for example, you have trouble remembering to floss before brushing, consider leaving a note next to your toothbrush as a reminder. If you don’t brush for long enough, the ADA recommends you spend at least two minutes brushing during each session, consider placing a clock in your bathroom so you can keep track of time.
Because plaque forms in hard to reach places of the mouth, you should use begin using an antibacterial mouthwash as part of your nightly oral hygiene regimen. If you haven’t visited the dentist within that last six months, you need to start scheduling regular appointments. Dental cleanings remain an invaluable part of maintaining your oral health, and the only way for you to remove built up tartar deposits from your teeth. Visiting the dentist also provides him or her the opportunity to examine your mouth for any early signs of gingivitis. When caught at an early stage, the affects of gingivitis can are more easily treatable than when the disease develops into periodontitis, which can cause damage that cannot be repaired.
By paying a little more attention to the health of your gums, you can ensure a great looking smile for 2013 and beyond.
A freelance health writer, Timothy Lemke blogs about the best oral care practices for Dr. Sue Walker, a dentist in Milwaukee, Oregon.