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What is your mouth trying to tell you?

If you’re over age 30 there’s a 50/50 chance you’ve already got some type of gum disease. You’ve probably noticed the sign. A little blood your toothbrush, when you floss, or gums that feel a little puffy or sore. These small signals might have already progressed to more concerning symptoms such as:

1. Chronic bad breath
2. Bleeding gums when brushing your teeth
3. Bleeding or sore gums when flossing
4. Discoloration of gums
5. Gums that appear to be pulling away from your teeth

These are signs of an infection in your gum tissue, which can get better or worse depending on whether you take action, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Take action! If you don’t address gum disease, it will turn into an infection of the gums, and underlying ligaments and bone. This infection can ultimately rob you of your teeth, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). Your mouth may not be the only part of your body that is affected by the disease. Researchers have linked gum disease with other health woes, such as heart disease, stroke, pregnancy complications, and poor blood sugar regulation.

While gum disease can be serious, it is preventable. Some simple lifestyle changes, such as boosting your brushing, improving your diet and making regular trips to your dentist can keep gum infections at bay and stop it quickly if one develops.

“I have had patients come in with bleeding gums from just tooth brushing, once they learn what they can do to stop it, and they maintain that routine, they see results within a few days,” says Frances Casanova, an dental hygienist at Boston’s Charles River Dental. “Having regular hygiene appointments makes a huge difference, keep with the intervals set by your hygienist.”

Heading off gum disease

First and foremost, if you notice the signals of early gum disease, known as gingivitis, it’s important to consult your dentist as soon as possible. In the early stages, gingivitis is relatively easy to address. In most cases a professional dental cleaning along with a more aggressive oral hygiene routine, often including prescription toothpastes/rinses, can resolve the disease process.

Premier dental offices, including Charles River Dental of Boston, preventively evaluate more than just how often you brush and floss. Using a risk-management system, called CAMBRA, Charles River Dental addresses other lifestyle choices that lead to poor oral health and gum disease. Here are some quick tips:

1. If you smoke cigarettes, it’s time to quit. Smoking is a major risk factor for gum disease. Smokers are two times as likely to develop gum disease and that risk goes up the longer and more frequently you light up, according to the CDC.
2. Stick to a healthful diet, and avoid sugary drinks and snacks to help protect your oral health.
3. Eat carbs in one sitting – highly fermentable carbohydrates/starches turn into sucrose which bacteria eat. The bacteria secrete acid which can lead to tooth decay.
4. Using a mouth wash with fluoride, such as ACT fluoride rinse helps increase the strength of the teeth.
5. Chew gum! Sugarless of course – Chewing increases the saliva in your mouth and helps prevent acid buildup on your teeth between brushes.

Although treatment can help stop gum disease, prevention is always best. It is important to focus on your gum health and head off problems before they start. If you notice troubling signs or symptoms, be certain to visit your dentist right away. Quick action can halt gum disease in its tracks, before it becomes a threat to your teeth and to your health.