Have you noticed gum redness or bleeding while brushing or flossing? Are you overdue for a dental checkup and cleaning?

If you answered yes to the above questions, you could be experiencing gum disease and not even know it.

Research shows that as we age our risk level goes up naturally. For example, of adults over 30 years of age, nearly 47% show signs gum disease. The rate goes up to 70% for those over 65 years of age.

Since aging leaves a person more prone to gum disease, the real question is, “What can we do to prevent gum disease?” We hope this article will begin to answer that question for you and motivate you to take action today.

How does gum disease happen?

When bacteria builds up in a film on your teeth and is not cleaned away regularly and effectively, the gum tissues react with inflammation. If this condition becomes chronic, the infection that begins in the gum tissue can begin to affect the bones that support your teeth.

This is where serious concerns happen, such as risk losing those teeth and links to other health troubles such as heart disease and diabetes.

In basic terms, gum disease starts in areas that you’re not brushing or keeping clean. But what if you are brushing and flossing regularly – is it enough to keep the teeth free of inflammation causing bacteria?

Since we can only brush and floss plague on the surface or between the teeth, our good home-care practices are usually not enough. Professional dental cleanings are needed to remove plague below the gum line.

Symptoms of gum disease

Although pain is uncomfortable, most of us depend on it to indicate that we have a problem. One of the challenges with detecting gum disease is that pain is often not one of the early symptoms.

One of the early warning signs of gum problems is swelling of the gums. Swollen gums lead to other symptoms such as redness and bleeding of the gums. Other signs related to the fact that an infection is present is constant bad breath or mouth sores. In more advanced cases teeth can begin to loosen as the underlying bone is compromised.

Steps to prevention

Some of the steps to preventing this disease can seem obvious, however, basic and consistent oral care is the key to preventing plaque buildup.

Adequate brushing – Most people brush their teeth twice per day. However, it is important to brush for approximately 2 minutes each time to do an effective job. Brushing should be gentle, but thorough.

Daily flossing – Flossing is not always recognized as important. When you consider that 30% of the tooth surface is between the teeth, its true significance is revealed.

Diet – Foods high in sugar increase plaque. On the flipside, eating fruits and vegetables can have the effect of helping to clean the teeth. Balance your diet with healthy foods and reduce or avoid soft drinks and other sugar rich foods.

Avoiding smoking – Smoking is known to cause oral cancer and contribute to gum disease. It should be avoided.

Regular dental cleanings and check-ups – The frequency of dental cleanings can increase as we age and based on the state of our oral health. Ask your dentist how often dental cleanings are recommended for you. The extra time and expense in prevention will pay dividends later.

Follow through with correcting dental problems – Fix problems while they are still small. Follow through with your dentist’s recommendations with as little delay as possible.