Red is widely considered the color of February. From bouquets of roses to heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, red is everywhere. One place you probably wouldn’t expect to see red is in your gums when brushing and flossing, but that’s the reality for more than half of Americans. Bleeding gums is a sign of gum disease. Since February is National Gum Disease Awareness Month, now seems like the perfect time to talk about gum disease, its treatment, and how you can prevent it.
What Is Gum Disease?
Also known as periodontal disease, gum disease is the result of a bacterial infection in the gum tissue. Although it starts out with little to no symptoms, it can rapidly progress to the point that your teeth shift around and even fall out! In fact, gum disease is the most common cause of adult tooth loss here in the United States. Since you definitely don’t want it to get to that point, tell your dentist if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Bleeding gums when brushing and flossing
- Bad breath that doesn’t respond to your oral hygiene routine
- Red, swollen, tender, or puffy gums
- Changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- Gums that pull back from the teeth, making your teeth appear “longer”
- Loose or shifting teeth
- Pus forming between your gums and teeth
How Your Dentist Treats Gum Disease
There are many options out there for gum disease treatment. Here are a few of them your dentist might use:
- Scaling and root planing. Also called a dental deep cleaning, scaling and root planing is perhaps the most common way dentists treat periodontal disease. Scaling involves using an ultrasonic cleaning instrument to remove plaque around your gumline. Root planing entails smoothing out your tooth roots, making it harder for bacteria to attach themselves in the future.
- Soft tissue laser therapy. Your dentist may also use a concentrated beam of light to painlessly remove infected tissue while not compromising healthy tissue.
- Antibiotic therapy. After your initial treatment, your dentist may apply a topical antibiotic directly to your infected gums to target even the most hard-to-reach bacteria. You might also be prescribed an antibiotic in pill form.
How You Can Prevent Gum Disease
Maintaining an excellent oral hygiene regimen is the best way to keep periodontal disease at bay. Floss every day (ideally after every meal and snack) to remove plaque from along your gumline that, if allowed to accumulate, can cause gum disease. Use a fluoridated toothpaste to brush your teeth at least twice a day. Also, use a soft-bristled toothbrush to avoid irritating your gums.
It’s also important that you see your dentist every six months for a checkup. Your dentist can then examine your mouth and diagnose gum disease in its early stages before it wreaks havoc. Regular cleanings can remove built-up plaque and keep your mouth healthy.
About the Author
Dr. Shanaka Weerasooriya has achieved Mastery status in both cosmetic and restorative dentistry from Dr. Frank Spear at the Spear Institute. He has also earned a Fellowship in the International Congress of Oral Implantologists. He has undergone extensive post-graduate training in gum disease treatment, so he can determine the best way to treat your periodontal disease and get your oral health back on track. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms described above, contact Dr. Shanaka’s Sarasota, FL practice by calling (941) 388-4114.