Spring is just around the corner, and with it, spring cleaning. From decluttering a countertop to taking a hard look at organization, it’s time to celebrate the end of winter.

However, another important cleaning this spring is also likely due: your dental hygiene appointment. And it’s a crucial one not to miss, especially if you want to prevent gum disease.

You have probably heard all your life that you should get your teeth cleaned every six months. You have heard it because it’s true. Getting the tartar and plaque buildup removed from your teeth is essential to your oral health. Failure to take care of your hygiene appointment can lead to more serious conditions with your gums, conditions that can affect your overall health.

Before you scoff at the notion, consider this: Nearly half of the adults over age 30 in the U.S. have gum disease (47%) according to the CDC. Not only that, but gum disease also affects over 70% of adults over the age of 65.

Leading Cause of Tooth Loss

Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss caused by an infection in the gum tissue that progresses below the gum line and damages the bone and supporting tissues of your teeth. Patients who suffer from gum disease have red swollen gums and even bleeding, among other symptoms. Perhaps worst of all, however, is that gum disease has been linked to other serious health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, strokes, and even some forms of cancer.

Gingivitis is a less severe form of gum disease. It results from plaque buildup and tartar on the teeth that grows along the gum line. As this tartar buildup or calculus increases, it irritates your gums causing redness and bleeding. However, many patients with gingivitis might not know they have it. That’s where your hygienist comes in handy.

When a hygienist cleans your teeth, they also observe changes in the gum tissues. They can see when the calculus buildup is irritating the gums, as well as the first signs of infection. They rate the gums by how they respond to stimulus and identify areas that the dentists should watch for signs of gum disease. They also can clean off the buildup causing the problem so that the irritation or infection can clear. Missing your hygiene appointment means missing out on this important survey of your oral health which can lead to more serious gum health issues if left untreated.

Gum disease becomes severe once the calculus buildups reach below the gum line. Now it is called Periodontitis. The buildup causes the gums to separate from the teeth and supporting bone forming periodontal pockets. These pockets cause swelling, pain, and misalignment, and if left untreated, can result in tooth loss. Not only that, the bacteria present under the gum line can leave the oral cavity through the extensive vascular network that leads from there and make it to other parts of the body, such as the heart.

What to Do When Your Gum Disease is Advanced

While periodontitis is serious, it is still treatable. However, once it reaches these advanced stages, it will require either traditional surgery with scalpel and sutures or laser treatment like the LANAP® protocol which is laser assisted regeneration that presents a less painful and more patient-friendly optionfor gum disease treatment.

One of the best ways prevent periodontitis is to maintain a regular schedule with your dentist and hygienist every six months. The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) also recommends having a comprehensive oral health examination every year by your dentist. This attention to cleaning your teeth and assessing your gum tissue health can help catch gum disease in its earlier stages, before more serious treatments are necessary. Another important way to prevent gum disease is regular brushing and flossing in your day-to-day cleaning.

Spring cleaning is an excellent annual tradition for your home and your life. Your spring cleaning hygiene appointment is also a wonderful annual tradition for your oral health. Gum disease is more common than you think. Make sure you are doing what you can to catch it before it is too late. Call your dental professional to set up your Spring teeth cleaning today.