February is Gum Disease Awareness Month

Gum disease is one of the most common and misunderstood diseases

40% of adults ages 30 years and older have some form of periodontal disease, along with 70% of adults ages 65 years and older. Most people aren’t educated on gum disease, and what we think we know may not be completely true.

What is gum disease?

Periodontal (gum) disease is an infection of your gums or the tissues that hold your teeth in place.  The infection forms when bacteria build up in your mouth and harden on the teeth. It’s called gingivitis in its early stages, and periodontitis in its later stages. The early symptoms include red, swollen, or bleeding gums. In the advanced stages, it can lead to sore, bleeding gums; painful chewing problems; and even tooth loss.

Gum disease treatment can be used to control the infection, and can vary depending on the severity of the disease. Often, part of the treatment includes good at-home care on your own as well. The dentist may also suggest changing certain behaviors, such as quitting smoking, as a way to improve your treatment results.

woman brushing her teeth

How to avoid gum disease

During a dental visit, your dentist examines your mouth for signs of gum disease. They will do this by measuring pockets around the teeth. Healthy pockets are between 1 and 3 millimeters. Going to the dentist regularly is one way to prevent gum disease, so you can get regularly examined.


Check for risk factors

There are a number of risk factors for gum disease, including diabetes, hormonal changes in girls and women, diabetes, medications that lessen the flow of saliva, certain illnesses such as AIDS, and their medications, genetic susceptibility, and the biggest: smoking.

Keep your gums healthy

You can keep your gums healthy by brushing your teeth twice a day, using fluoride toothpaste, flossing regularly, regularly visiting the dentist, and avoiding smoking.

Manage your plaque

Bacteria in our month, along with mucus and other particles, constantly form a sticky, colorless “plaque” on teeth. Controlling plaque build-up can help prevent gum disease. Good brushing and flossing habits can help prevent plaque. Make sure you regularly see your dentist as well to prevent gum disease. Only a professional cleaning can remove tartar, which forms when plaque is not removed.

About Gum Disease

Learn more about preventing and treating periodontal (gum) disease and NIDCR’s related research in this video by the NIH. Learn more: https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/health-info/gum-disease

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