What Is Gum Disease, And What Can I Do To Prevent It?

Also known as periodontitis, gum disease is a common problem in oral health. Gingivitis and periodontitis are not the same but the former is often a precursor to gum disease. Gingivitis is described as inflammation of the gum tissue. It affects most people at some point in their lives but the mild symptoms don’t make it obvious. Nonetheless, poor management of gingivitis can lead to gum disease. To understand how to prevent gum disease, it’s important to look into how it develops. The early stage of gingivitis is characterized by plaque build up. Plaque  is a sticky film that forms between teeth and along the gum line when saliva, foods and fluids combine. The film offers a good nidus for bacterial growth and leads to gum inflammation.

Initial injury only causes mild irritation but no irreversible damage occurs to the teeth or surrounding tissues. However, build up plaque causes increased release of harmful acids that attack the enamel and gum tissue. Eventually, persistent gum inflammation and tooth decay develop. Plaque also hardens into tartar that settles along the gum line making it hard to clean your teeth and gums.  Gum disease develops when damage extends to the inner layer of the gum and the bone pulls away from the teeth to form pockets. The pockets often collect debris and may become infected. Deepening of the pockets and increased tissue damage are both signs of disease progression. Ultimately, damage can be so severe that tooth loss is imminent.. In the adult population, gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss.

There are numerous factors that contribute to gum disease. Hormonal changes that occur during puberty, menopause and pregnancy increase gum sensitivity and can lead to gingivitis. Moreover, illnesses that compromise the immune system can potentiate periodontitis. Some medications also leave gum tissues susceptible to damage. Ill habits like smoking have a direct effect on oral health and often cause gum disease. One of the leading etiologies of periodontitis is poor oral hygiene. Failure to maintain good oral hygiene makes it easier to develop gingivitis and periodontitis.

Fortunately, gum disease is preventable. Gingivitis is reversible and proper plaque control is guaranteed to curb disease progression. Maintenance of good oral hygiene is the number one method of preventing periodontitis. Simply stick to the following routines and gum disease will not be a problem 

Brush Your Teeth 

Brushing your teeth regularly prevents build up of plaque. Recommendations from dentists and other dental associations is to brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste for two minutes. Tooth brushing ensures plaque doesn’t build up on your enamel and gum line. Use a soft-bristled brush to prevent damage to your gums and replace your toothbrush every three months or as soon as the bristles become frayed.


It’s important to floss at least once a day. This is a great adjunct to tooth brushing and ensures spaces between your teeth are clean. Flossing cleans surfaces that your toothbrush cannot reach. Antibacterial mouthwashes are also effective in preventing gum disease and fighting bad breath.

Lifestyle changes also cut the risk of gum disease. Cessation of smoking has direct benefits to oral health. Smoking is not only bad for your lungs and heart but also your gums and teeth. Compared to non-smokers, there is a seven fold probability of a smoker to develop periodontitis. Stopping ensures your gums remain healthy and your efforts to maintain good oral hygiene are fruitful. Another lifestyle change that prevents gum disease is maintenance of a good diet. Proper nutrition keeps your immunity in tip-top shape, exactly what you need to fight any bacterial infection in your mouth. Moreover, avoiding sugary foods reduces plaque build up and damage from harmful acids released by bacteria.

Unfortunately, in almost 30 % of the population, gum disease will develop despite taking all preventive measures. This is explained by the implication of genetic predisposition in the aetiology of gum disease. Nonetheless, it’s paramount to take all the measures since they reduce the progression of disease and extent of damage, even when prevention is not achieved.  Finally, stick to the minimum two dental visits a year. Your dentists in Maroubra will give all the guidance you need and perhaps a professional clean up of your oral cavity. 

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