Gum disease, in simple terms, is an infection of the gums; that is, however, the last time “simple” will be used in this article to describe gum disease.
Gum disease can get complicated quickly. Gum disease can lurk in your mouth without offering you obvious clues. Because it can be virtually pain free, you may never, on your own, notice anything is wrong. It is, in fact, one of the top reasons for tooth loss in adults. People just don’t often realize their gums are in need of treatment.
Luckily, you have a skilled dentist. Your dentist, during each regular checkup, will check for signs of gum disease by taking radiographs and by completing a periodontal chart.
What causes gum disease?
It all starts with bacteria. Bacteria left in the mouth, along with other particles, can buildup to form a pesky plaque that covers your teeth. Plaque that is not removed by brushing and flossing will eventually harden, causing tartar to form. Gum disease, or periodontal disease, will eventually set in. It will create small pockets that separate the gums from the teeth, while at the same time destroying the bone around the roots of the teeth.
Gingivitis is the beginning of periodontitis. It is the inflammation of the gum caused by the buildup of bacteria, plaque and tarter in your mouth. When you have gingivitis, your gums will become red and swollen. Your gums will likely bleed easily when you brush, floss or even eat. Gingivitis is the start of gum disease at this point no bone loss has occurred.
When gingivitis is left untreated, it will progress. A condition called periodontitis will develop. When you are diagnosed with periodontitis, it means that your bone has begun to be destroyed. Technically, periodontitis is an infection; the infection will cause the bone and tissue in your mouth to break down.
Treating Gum Disease:
Treatments for gum disease can vary depending on the severity of each individual case. Types of treatment include the following:
- Non-surgical treatments, like root planning (deep cleaning)
- Periodontal surgery
- Laser gum surgery
Certain factors can increase a patient's risk of developing periodontal disease, including:
- Smoking or using chewing tobacco
- Certain types of medication, such as steroids, anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, calcium channel blockers, and oral contraceptives
- Bridges that no longer fit properly
- Crooked teeth
- Old fillings
While it is possible to have periodontal disease and not know it, some symptoms can include:
- Gums that bleed easily
- Red, swollen, tender gums
- Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
- Persistent bad breath or bad taste
- Pus between your teeth and gums
- Permanent teeth that are loose or separating
- Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- Any change in the fit of partial dentures
Preventing gum disease
In order to prevent gum disease, you should visit the dentist at least twice per year. You should also brush your teeth three times per day, floss at least once per day and refrain from smoking or chewing tobacco.