By Dr. Samira Haque

JACKSON, MI – It’s no secret that brushing our teeth at least twice a day is an essential part of our daily routine to keep our mouth healthy and cavity free.

However, maintaining good oral hygiene goes beyond just taking care of our teeth. Our gums are the foundation of a healthy mouth and an essential part of maintaining good oral health, too.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of all U.S. adults older than 30 have periodontitis, an advanced form of gum disease. Research also suggests that advanced gum disease is linked to a handful of other serious health issues, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even Alzheimer’s disease.

What is Periodontitis?

Gum disease starts out as gingivitis, which is a bacterial infection of the gums. Plaque and tartar build up on the teeth, especially along and below the gum line and hard-to-reach places, causing inflammation.

Gingivitis is a common, mild form of gum disease and can be identified by sensitivity, redness, swelling and bleeding gum tissue. Gingivitis is easily treated. But left untreated, it can develop into periodontitis, which attacks the gum tissue and underlying bone structure that supports the teeth. Eventually, this can lead to deep infections that may cause a loss of gum tissue, bone and teeth.

While gum disease symptoms can vary depending on how progressive the disease is, they include:

· Swollen, inflamed gums or pain when chewing

· Gums that bleed easily, particularly when brushing or flossing

· Receding gums

· Bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth

· Gaps between teeth and gums

· Gum ulcers or abscesses

· Loose teeth or loss of a tooth

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is a good idea to get in to see your dentist. The earlier you can identify and treat gum issues, the less invasive treatment will be in getting your mouth back on a healthy track.

Treatments can include nothing more than a simple cleaning or antibacterial mouthwash. More advanced disease can require more invasive treatments, such as a deep cleaning below the gum line or even surgery, which involves bone graft and tissue regeneration.

How do you avoid gum disease?

Thankfully, there are several easy ways to keep your mouth healthy and protected:

· Brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste

· Flossing at least once per day

· Drinking plenty of water

· Avoiding tobacco and alcohol

· Visiting your dentist at least once a year

· Maintaining normal blood sugar

Following these basic tips and establishing a consistent oral hygiene routine is all it takes to keep your mouth and gums on a healthy track now and into the future.

Dr. Samira Haque is a dentist at the Center for Family Health Dental Clinic, 500 N. Jackson St.

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