Awareness, daily good habits prevent risk of gum disease

| March 6, 2012 | 0 Comments

Lisa Young
U.S. Army Public Health Command

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — Gum diseases are serious infections that can lead to tooth loss.

That’s why clean and healthy teeth and gums are more important than for just an attractive smile.

Unfortunately, the beginning stages of gum disease are not painful and often go unnoticed.

Many people develop gum disease to a varying degree in early adulthood, sometimes due to persistent hormonal changes.

Gum or periodontal disease begins when the bacteria in plaque — the sticky colorless film that is constantly being formed on the teeth — causes the gums to be infected and swollen. If the plaque is not removed, it turns into a hard deposit called tartar that is trapped at the base of the tooth and irritates the gums.

The mildest form of periodontal disease is gingivitis. It often occurs when a person does not brush and floss their teeth adequately, or have regular cleanings with the dental hygienist.

The symptoms of gingivitis are not usually painful. They include the following maladies:

•Bleeding gums, particularly when teeth are brushed;

•Bright red gums;

•Gums that are tender when touched, but otherwise painless;

•Swollen gums; and

•Shiny appearance to gums.

Gingivitis is reversible with professional treatment and good oral care. If left untreated, however, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, which occurs when plaque and bacterial infection grow below the gum line.

Over time, toxins produced by bacteria stimulate an inflammatory response in the body, so that the tissues and bone that support the teeth are broken down and destroyed. As the disease progresses, the gums separate from the teeth and the spaces between the teeth and gums deepen and eventually more gum tissue and bone are destroyed.

The risk of periodontal disease is increased by these things:

•General illness;

•Poor dental hygiene;

•Pregnancy, due to hormonal changes that increase gum sensitivity;

•Uncontrolled diabetes;

•Misaligned teeth; rough edges of fillings; ill-fitting braces, dentures, bridges or crowns; and

•Certain medications, e.g., phenytoin, birth control pills and heavy metals.

The goal of treatment for periodontal disease is to reduce inflammation. Generally, teeth are professionally cleaned by a dentist or a dental hygienist to loosen and remove the plaque and hard tartar from the teeth.

Getting teeth cleaned at least twice a year, and possibly more often, is required to keep the build-up of plaque off the teeth. Careful oral hygiene, on a daily basis, is needed thereafter.

Gum Disease

Learn more about gum disease at www.ada.org and www.cdc.gov/OralHealth.

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Category: Army News Service, Community, Health

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