Gum disease (periodontitis) is a serious gum infection that damages the soft tissue and bone which support your teeth. Gum disease, if untreated, can lead to tooth loss and increases your risk of heart attack, stroke and other serious health problems.
Poor oral hygiene, such as failure to brush and floss teeth daily is the leading cause of gum disease. It all starts with plaque, an invisible sticky film that contains bacteria that form together with starches and sugars found in the food you eat. When plaque is not removed by brushing your teeth, it stays and hardens under your gum line to form tartar.
As tartar and plaque remain on your teeth, these cause damage by irritating the gums around the base of your teeth, causing a gum infection known as gingivitis. Eventually, as pockets of tartar and plaque form around your teeth and gums, bacteria accumulate and reach the bones underneath your teeth. The infection of tissue and bone may be so extensive as to cause you to lose one or more of your teeth.
Signs and symptoms
The following signs indicate gum disease:
- swollen gums
- bright red or purplish gums
- receding gums that make your teeth look longer than normal
- new spaces developing between teeth
- pus between teeth and gums
- loose teeth
- a change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- bad breath
- bad taste in your mouth, possibly coming from pus
Prevention and treatment
Once you suspect that you have gum disease, your only recourse is to seek treatment from a dentist. Gum infection is a preventable disease. Practising good oral hygiene by regular brushing and flossing
is your first step in preventing gum disease. Replace your toothbrush regularly as bacteria may colonise in it after constant use. If brushing is not possible when you are dining out, finish every meal with a glass of water to help wash away some of the sugar and starch in your mouth. Regular dental check--ups also helps as your dentist may be able to remove tartar or plaque build-up.
Following a healthy diet also helps prevent gum disease. Avoid sugary foods and consume starchy food in moderation as these substances are known to interact with bacteria to form plaque. Consume foods that are rich in calcium and Vitamin-C for increased bone and teeth strength. Vitamin-C also helps maintain healthy gums. Sources of calcium include low-fat milk and dairy products, sardines and green leafy vegetables. You may also obtain Vitamin-C from citrus fruits, most vegetables and from a good multivitamin supplement.
Natural herbs such as calendula, tea tree oil and aloe vera gel have antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties to help you fight plaque and gum disease. In the case of aloe vera, research shows that it not only provides anti-bacterial action against plaque but also helps regenerate gums. Look for herbal toothpaste that contains natural herbs such as calendula, tea tree oil or aloe vera gel in health stores.