Every area of our body is at risk for infection, but were you aware that this also includes your mouth? More specifically, your gum tissue that protects your teeth can become infected and cause serious harm to the health of your smile. But how does a gum infection like this start? And can it be prevented or treated?
A gum infection begins when plaque (a sticky bacterial film) is left to harden on the tooth surfaces. This tartar irritates the gum tissue, eventually leading to infection. Also known as gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease, this infection is characterized by tender, red gums that bleed easily. Without a professional cleaning or treatment, the gums will remain infected and begin to pull away from the teeth, exposing the sensitive tooth roots. Advanced gum disease is characterized by receding gums, loose teeth, and irreparable jawbone damage.
While plaque buildup is the main cause of gum infection, other factors can increase the risk of this condition developing:
- Smoking or tobacco use
- Nutritional deficiency
- Hormonal changes
- Medication use
- Systemic disease
- Genetics and age
How to treat your gum infection
If you catch your gum infection early and visit your dentist, most likely you can have this gingivitis fully treated. However more advanced stages of this infection cannot be treated, only managed. Scaling and root planing is the non-surgical first step to removing the infection. This procedure involves removing plaque and tartar from the surface of the teeth, then smoothing the enamel to help gums reattach. More advanced stages may need surgical intervention like a gingivectomy or osseous surgery to remove the infection, replace lost bone, and repair the gum tissue.
Ways to help prevent gum infection
Fortunately, there are ways you can prevent gum infection and gum disease. Be sure to practice great oral hygiene by brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing once a day. Another important step is visiting your dentist every 6 months. Professional cleanings and evaluations ensure that your smile is healthy, and any signs of infection or disease can be dealt with quickly.
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