Dentists cannot stress the importance of good oral health. Brushing twice a day is only part of it; flossing also plays a big part in your dental hygiene. Why do dentists take flossing so seriously? Because doing so can help prevent gum disease. Many adults in the US are affected by gum disease each year. Gum disease is broken down into two categories: gingivitis and periodontitis. Both cases can be referred to as “gum diseases” but gingivitis is the preliminary condition that can turn into periodontitis if it is ignored or not treated properly. Let’s delve a little deeper into these two ailments to see what sets them apart.

Gingivitis is caused by the build-up of plaque on your teeth. Plaque is a sticky, film-like layer of bacteria that coats the teeth if they are not brushed. The development of plaque occurs when sugars and starches in food and beverages come into contact with normal mouth bacteria. This build-up causes the gums to become inflamed and bleed when you brush or floss. If not treated properly, this condition can become more serious and turn into periodontitis.

Periodontitis is the condition that is most commonly known as gum disease. If gingivitis is not properly cared for, plaque will grow below the gum line and cause the inner layer of gum and bone to pull away from the teeth, forming pockets and exposing the area to further bacteria. In turn, debris will get caught in these pockets and your guns will become infected. As plaque grows below the gum line, the infection begins to deteriorate the connective tissue and bone that hold your teeth in place. This will cause teeth to become loose and those teeth are likely to fall out. In fact, periodontitis is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.

There are many things that can cause gingivitis and then peroidontitis. Here are some examples:

  • Poor oral hygiene habits – As we mentioned, habits such as not brushing and flossing on a daily basis, make it easier for gingivitis to develop.
  • Bad habits – Partaking in smoking or chewing tobacco will make it more difficult for gum tissue to heal.
  • Family history of dental disease – This can be a contributing factor for the development of gingivitis.
  • Illnesses – The condition of your gums may be affected by any conditions you may have. This includes diseases such as cancer, HIV, and diabetes. Those with these diseases are at higher risk of developing infections, including periodontal disease and cavities.
  • Medications – The side effects that come with some of the medications that you may be prescribed may prevent the development of saliva, which has a protective effect on both teeth and gums.
  • Hormonal changes- If a patient is going through puberty, pregnancy, menopause, or monthly menstruation, their gums may be more sensitive than normal, which could potentially lead to gingivitis.

The best way to ensure that you do not find yourself with gum disease is to take great care of your teeth. Be sure to brush twice a day, floss, and rinse your mouth. It is also important to see your dentist for a routine check every four to six months, in order to ensure your mouth is in the best health.