The earliest sign of gum disease is called gingivitis. If left untreated, gingivitis can eventually lead to the loss of gum tissue, bone supporting the teeth and eventually the actual teeth. The good news is that it is easy to treat. Better yet, it’s nearly 100% preventable.
Gingivitis is usually caused by allowing plaque to sit on the gums, which is generally due to poor oral hygiene. This means that it’s almost entirely within your power to prevent with simple daily brushing and flossing. In addition to good oral health habits, regular dentist visits will also help with early detection. In fact, dentists can often detect minor inflammation and other signs of gingivitis before it causes any discomfort.
When gingivitis is caught early, a thorough professional cleaning and better brushing and flossing habits are often enough to nip it in the bud. Left untreated, gingivitis will eventually progress to periodontitis, a breakdown of the tissue and bone that supports the teeth.
Though most forms of gingivitis are preventable by regular brushing, flossing and visiting the dentist, there are some habits or medical conditions that make the mouth more susceptible to gingivitis and periodontal disease. Smoking is believed to contribute to more than half of the cases of periodontal disease in the U.S. Women who are pregnant or menopausal, people with heart disease, diabetes, epilepsy or HIV infection, and people who suffer from poor nutrition are more likely to have periodontal disease. Poorly fitting braces or dentures can also increase the risk of gum disease.