What is gum disease?
Periodontal disease is an infection of the soft tissues and bones that surround and support the teeth. It is also known by its much more common name: gum disease.
Gum disease has different stages, ranging from mild gingivitis that is only causing inflammation of soft tissues to severe periodontitis. In more advanced cases of gum disease, the bones and supporting structures of the teeth become infected. If left untreated, this infection can eventually result in tooth loss.
What causes gum disease?
Gum disease can be caused by a variety of factors, including bacteria and plaque buildup in the mouth, smoking, hormonal shifts, some prescription medications, nutritional deficiencies, uneven teeth, and even genetics. Some of these factors are controllable and can be used to help prevent gum disease. For example, quitting smoking and regular at-home dental care go a long way in helping you maintain your oral health.
Even the effects of factors that can't be controlled, such as genetics or medications, can be mitigated as long as you maintain a rigorous and thorough oral hygiene routine.
Example: You may be genetically predisposed to plaque buildup; however, if you brush and floss twice a day, in addition to visiting your dentist at prescribed intervals for a professional cleaning and checkup, the likelihood of developing gum disease is reduced.
The Most Common Cause of Gum Disease
Whether you are experiencing a hormonal shift (perhaps a pregnancy), are a regular smoker, or take a prescription medication, gum disease is ultimately caused by the unimpeded development of bacteria and plaque in the mouth.
This is actually good news because it means that most of the time gum disease is easily prevented by a good oral hygiene routine. While the above-listed issues can increase the risk of gum disease (and make prevention more difficult), it is ultimately up to you whether it actually develops.
The best way to prevent gum disease is twice-daily brushing and flossing, and regular visits to your dentist for professional cleanings (for most people, twice a year is should be sufficient).