There are more bacteria in your mouth right now than there are people on Earth. If those germs settle into your gums, you've got gum disease. "Not me?" you say. Here are the facts.
- More than half of all adults have at least the early stages of gum disease.
- About 90 percent of adults have gum disease during their lives.
- If you have diabetes, you are at higher risk for gum problems. Poor blood sugar control makes gum problems more likely.
Gum disease can start at any age. Children and teenagers who have diabetes are at greater risk than those who don't have diabetes. Just when you thought the news was all bad, remember that there is a lot you can do to fight gum disease.
- Learn how gum problems start.
- Brush your teeth twice a day.
- Floss your teeth every day.
- Look for early signs of gum disease.
- Visit your dentist at least twice a year.
A Big Plaque Attack
When you have gum disease, germs work to destroy your gums (gingiva) and the bone around your teeth. It starts with plaque. Plaque is a sticky film of food, saliva, and germs. Plaque loves to settle at the gum line. There, germs get busy making your gums red, tender, and likely to bleed.
The goal of your daily tooth brushing and flossing is to clean away plaque. When plaque stays put, it hardens into tartar. Tartar builds up under the gum line. More plaque forms over the tartar. Only your dentist or dental hygienist can get tartar off your teeth.
If plaque and tartar are not cleaned away, even gentle brushing can cause your gums to bleed. This is called gingivitis. It is the first stage of gum disease. You can fight gingivitis with daily good brushing and flossing habits, and getting your teeth cleaned at least twice a year at your dentist's office. If you ignore gingivitis, the gum disease gets worse.
The more severe form of gum disease is called periodontitis. When you reach this stage, your gums begin to pull away from your teeth. Pockets form between your teeth and gums. These fill with germs and pus, and deepen. When this happens, you may need gum surgery to save your teeth. If nothing is done, the infection goes on to destroy the bone around your teeth. The teeth may start to move or get loose. Your teeth may fall out or need to be pulled.