What is gum disease, and how do you get it?

Gum disease is an inflammation of the gums which is caused by bacteria and plaque. During its early stages, gum disease presents itself as swollen and bleeding gums. If left untreated, the plaque will build up allowing bacteria to infect your gums and teeth, destroying the structures that support your teeth in your jawbone. Eventually, gum disease will cause your teeth to become loose or fall out if not extracted by a dentist.

For many years, scientists have been trying to figure out what causes gum disease. It is now a well-accepted fact that the bacteria in dental plaque is the primary cause of gum disease. Dental plaque – the sticky substance that forms on your teeth a few hours after you have brushed – leads to swollen and bleeding gums, gingivitis (the earliest stage of periodontal/gum disease), loosening of the teeth, and severe periodontitis (the advanced stage of the disease). Failing to maintain good oral hygiene habits, such as brushing, flossing and visiting your dentist at least every six months, can increase your risk of gum disease. When oral hygiene routines slip or dental visits become irregular, plaque build-up can spread below the gum line, detaching the gum from the tooth.

The early stages of gum disease can often be reversed with proper brushing and flossing, as brushing and flossing help to remove plaque from your teeth. However, once the plaque hardens into tartar – this usually happens when plaque is not removed from teeth – a professional cleaning by a dentist or oral hygienist is the only way to keep plaque under control.

If you are concerned about the state of your oral health and would like to schedule an appointment with a dentist who is dedicated to ensuring that all of her patients leaves her office with a renewed sense of confidence in their smile, contact a dentist in Cape Town.