Chances are you or someone you know has a form of gum disease. In fact, 75% of Americans will develop gum disease in their lifetime. It’s important to distinguish that there isn’t just one form of gum disease, but multiple that may affect your overall oral health. If left untreated, certain forms of gum disease can increase your risk for developing other health concerns such as diabetes, and possible heart issues. It’s important to educate yourself about the
symptoms, risks and treatments for gingivitis—and its more advanced stage, periodontitis—the two most common forms of gum disease.
Gingivitis is the most well-known form of gum disease—you’ve heard about it from your dentist, or seen ads about fighting it on TV—but besides knowing the name, can you identify what gingivitis actually is? Gingivitis, and inflammation of the gums, develops when plaque that contains bacteria slowly builds up on your teeth and gums. Given time, the toxins released by the built-up plaque begins to damage your teeth and gums, making them sensitive, irritated and puffy. Prolonging gingivitis can lead to much more serious gum conditions.
If left untreated, gingivitis advances into periodontitis—a much more dangerous form of gum disease. Periodontal disease can cause an infection that destroys the bone supporting your teeth which may lead to tooth loss, bleeding gums, gum abscess and bad breath.
For many people, mild gum disease won’t show any symptoms, but if you notice anything different about your mouth or teeth, be sure to tell your dental professional. Failing to maintain a proper oral care routine at home puts you at major risk to develop gum disease. Gum disease is also caused by a litany of other factors that have nothing to do with brushing your teeth. For example, tobacco users often see an increase in disease as they are 2x more likely to develop gum disease. Hormonal changes in the human body can also cause gum disease, such as adolescence during puberty and pregnancy. In fact, approximately 60-70% of pregnant women will experience issues with gum disease.
Conditions like diabetes and heart disease can also be impacted by gum disease. In fact, 95% of people who suffer from diabetes will experience some form of gum disease. Gum disease also may impact heart health and could even lead to cardiovascular disease if not treated.
Several types of health conditions contribute to poor healing of oral tissues. But people with diabetes should always be aware that they are at risk for poor healing from any type of dental problem. Diabetes is one of the most common endocrine disorders. People with diabetes are at greater risk for infections and often suffer from dry mouth, which can promote tooth decay and gingivitis. Since people with diabetes are also prone to poor healing of oral tissues, gingivitis can be more difficult to treat if it does occur. This is why a regular oral care routine is especially important. If you have sensitive teeth or gums, choose a
toothbrush with soft bristles and a soft floss to minimize discomfort. If you have diabetes, be sure to tell your dental professional. He or she may want results from a blood test to show how well you control your condition.
Leukemia can increase your risk of developing gum disease. Gingivitis can be an early symptom of leukemia, especially in children. Data from studies of childhood leukemia have shown that about 25 percent of children with leukemia develop gingivitis as the first sign of cancer. In leukemia patients, gingivitis occurs when leukemia cells infiltrate the gums, and gingivitis can become severe because leukemia reduces the body’s ability to fight the infection.
Hormonal changes during pregnancy can affect gum health. Blood flow may increase during this time causing gum swelling. It is important to pay special attention to your oral hygiene during pregnancy to better maintain your gum health—twice daily brushing, once daily flossing, and rinsing with an anti-gingivitis mouthwash can help keep your mouth in good condition.
Certain medications or medical conditions may cause dry mouth which can leave your mouth more vulnerable to gum disease. Since saliva often helps to wash away plaque, when dry mouth occurs, plaque bacteria have a better chance of causing damage including tooth decay and gingivitis.
Although it is rare, a condition called desquamative gingivitis can occur in older women after they go through menopause. This type of gingivitis can be extremely painful because the outermost layers of the gums pull away from the underlying tissue and expose nerves. The gums can become so loose that the outer layer can be rubbed away with the slightest touch of a cotton swab. Treatment of desquamative gingivitis involves working closely with a dentist. If you are a woman still experiencing other symptoms of menopause, some type of hormone therapy may help. Or your dentist may prescribe a corticosteroid in the form of pills to swallow or a paste that you apply directly to the gums.
Vitamin C Deficiency
Gum tissue conditions can have many causes, but don’t forget to consider poor nutrition.
Inadequate vitamin C can promote bleeding gums that can develop into gingivitis if left untreated. Vitamin C also helps the body perform maintenance and repair on bones, teeth, and cartilage, and it also helps wounds heal.
There are ways in which you can treat or severely limit gum
disease. First and foremost, follow your dental hygienist’s or dentist’s
instructions for regular oral care at home in order to get the most benefit out
of your treatment. That means twice-daily tooth brushing and daily flossing,
plus regular visits to the dentist for follow-ups and professional cleanings. If
you experience any new problems following a regular oral care routine, ask your
dental hygienist or dentist to recommend products that can make your routine
electric toothbrush with a round brush head—like the Oral-B iO Series 9—and dental
floss are designed with your gum health in mind.
When you want to treat gum disease, especially gingivitis, try
these simple but effective methods:
Most Advanced Electric Toothbrush Against Gum Disease
Q: What does gum disease look like?
A: Gingivitis—and its later form, periodontitis—are formed by plaque buildup along the gum line. Though you may not notice anything in mild cases of gum disease, sensitive teeth, bleeding or swollen gums are the most common warning signs that something needs to be addressed.
Q: Can gum disease be cured?
A: Gum disease can be cured—and prevented, for that matter—by
adhering to a routine recommended by dentists. That is: brushing twice-a-day,
every day. Using floss daily. Rinsing with an anti-gingivitis mouthwash and
visiting you dentist regularly. Using an electric toothbrush with a round brush
Oral-B iO Series 9—also helps
to combat the effects of gum disease.
From Oral-B, the #1 dentist-recommended toothbrush brand, worldwide.
Q: Can gum disease be reversed?
A: Early gum disease, specifically gingivitis, can be reversed by adhering to a strict oral care regimen. However, Periodontitis can only be treated by a dental professional.
Q: What exactly Is gum disease?
A: The American Dental Association (ADA) defines gum disease as "an infection of the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth." What does this mean to you? It means that gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.
Q: What causes gum disease?
A: Gum disease is caused by plaque—a semi-transparent, sticky film of bacteria that forms on your teeth and gums and can build up to create damaging toxins if you don't have a proper oral care regimen. The beginning stage of this plaque buildup is a characteristic of gingivitis. Plaque itself is caused naturally by the things you do every day, such as eating or drinking.
Q: How do I know if I have gum disease?
A: There are several telltale signs of gum disease. They include:
Q: Is gum disease inevitable?
A: Fortunately, it's not. While we all have plaque (it's naturally occurring), there are several easy steps you can take every day to help keep your smile healthy for life. And while you might be familiar with each step, you might not realize how important it is that you do all the steps together, every day.
Q: What if I think I have gum disease?
A: Don't worry, you're not alone. More than 80 percent of adults have some form of gum disease. In most cases, you can help reverse, and even protect against, its effects. So how do you treat gum disease? Great question! A recent study showed the gum health benefits of the following routine, where 100% of gingivitis patients transitioned to a healthy gingival state**:
* Helps reduce plaque bacteria and inflammatory components associated with gingivitis, when used as an adjunct to brushing, flossing and regular professional care.
**Adam R,1 Grender J,2 Timm H,1 Qaqish J,3 Goyal CR.3 1. Procter & Gamble Service GmbH, Kronberg, Germany. 2. The Procter & Gamble Co., Mason, OH, USA. 3. All Sum, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. Data on file, 2020. Anti-Gingivitis and Anti-Plaque Efficacy of an Oral Hygiene Routine including Oral-B® iO Oscillating-Rotating Electric Toothbrush, Stannous Fluoride Dentifrice, CPC Rinse and Floss: Results from a 12-week Trial
This blog has been reviewed and approved by Dr Robert Lee,
a dental professional of 35 years
Dr Robert Lee
Dr Robert Lee is a dentist with more than thirty years of experience in the industry.
Graduating from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Dental Surgery and from the University of New South Wales with a Master of Business Administration, Robert’s career has taken him all over the world – from Australia to Germany to his current position in Chicago, where he is the founder of Denticus Inc., offering strategic dental consulting.
Robert has previously worked for Procter & Gamble as the Director of Professional Scientific Relations in both the Cincinnati and Sydney offices, being responsible for external relations and scientific exchange with leading professional associations and industry thought leaders. He was also responsible for all technical and scientific training for the professional teams in North America and Australia.
Robert has been assisting the team at Oral-B by fact-checking and reviewing our blogs on dental health. You can find a list of the blogs Robert has approved below:
What is Periodontitis? Treatments, Signs, and Symptoms
Pregnancy Gingivitis: Symptoms & Treatments During Pregnancy
Gum Surgery: Types and What to Expect
Types of Gum Disease: Stages, Factors & Related Conditions
Receding Gums: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments
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