Like any other tissue in the body, the gums can become infected. Periodontal disease usually takes root in the space between the gums and the teeth, a pocket known as the sulcus. As bacterial infections attack the sulcus, this pocket becomes deeper, causing damage to the roots of the teeth and even to the jawbone in extreme cases. Sometimes periodontal disease appears without warning signs, so it is important to maintain good oral health and see your dentist regularly.
The best way to prevent periodontal disease is simply to follow general dental hygiene tips. Brush your teeth twice a day or more, using a soft toothbrush. Also brush the gums gently whenever you brush your teeth, as bacteria builds up on gum surfaces in the same way it does on the teeth. In addition, make sure to floss every day, to ensure that bacteria does not get trapped between the teeth.
Healthy dietary choices also promote good periodontal health. High-sugar or refined foods can promote bacterial growth and hurt the gums. Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and other natural foods can prevent the development of disease.
Although they are not always present, everyone should keep an eye out for the warning signs of periodontal disease. The most common symptom is red, swollen gums, which may bleed when you floss or brush. You may also experience a gradual recession of your gums, exposing more of the teeth. These signs appear early in the disease, in a state known as gingivitis. See your dentist as soon as possible for treatment, as gingivitis can be reversed.
If you notice constant bad breath, see changes in the way your teeth align in your mouth, or develop pus in between teeth, you may have a more advanced periodontal disease known as periodontitis. You should see your dentist immediately in order to minimize damage.