Gum disease, which is also known as periodontal disease, is an infection of the tissues and bones surrounding and supporting your teeth. Gum diseases attack below the gum line in the v-shaped crevices between your teeth and gums where they cause the gum tissues to break down. Gum disease can eventually lead to tooth loss and worse.
There are Two Stages of Gum Disease
Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease and is reversible if treated in time. The symptoms of Gingivitis are swollen, red gums that bleed easily when flossing or brushing. Gingivitis only affects your gums and generally does not cause pain. Your gums, although inflamed and bleeding, will still hold your teeth firmly in place. However, if left untreated, Gingivitis can lead to the second and more destructive stage of gum disease.
Periodontitis is the second and much more serious version of gum disease. Periodontitis involves your gums literally pulling away from your teeth, leaving deep pockets where the bacteria from plaque can grow and attack the ligaments, gums, and bones surrounding your teeth to create infected pockets in your gums. Your gums will shrink back from your teeth which can lead to teeth being pulled out or simply becoming loose and falling out. Periodontitus may even require oral surgery to correct and can become so destructive as to cause the loss of tissue and/or bone. Furthermore, these pockets of infection can provide access to your bloodstream and allow destructive bacteria to travel throughout your body which can actually lead to heart disease.
The Causes of Gum Disease
Gum disease is caused by plaque. Your mouth is always creating plaque, a clear and sticky substance that contains destructive bacteria. These bacteria contain toxins that can irritate your gums and cause them to become infected. It is important to remove plaque from your teeth by regularly flossing and brushing to prevent toxic bacteria from spreading below your gums and damaging the bone supporting your teeth. Plaque that is allowed to build and harden is known as tartar and can only be removed by a dentist or dental hygienist.
Factors that increase the risk of gum disease are:
- Chewing or smoking tobacco
- Certain medications (steroids, some anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, calcium channel blockers and oral contraceptives)
- Uneven teeth
- Bridges that do not fit properly
- Pregnancy or hormonal changes
- Defective fillings
- Poor oral hygiene
- Genetic predisposition
- Weak immunity system, possibly caused by excessive stress, poor diet or diabetes and/or other systemic diseases
Symptoms of Gum Disease
- Gums that easily bleed
- Tender, bright red, swollen gums
- Pus between teeth and gums
- Gums pulling away from the teeth
- Chronic bad breath/foul tastes
- Permanent teeth that are becoming loose/separating
- Change in the way that one’s dentures fit
- Change in the way one’s teeth fit together when biting
Gum Disease Prevention and Treatment
Gingivitis, the milder, first stage of gum disease can be reversed by routinely brushing, flossing and going to the dentist regularly for teeth cleanings.
Periodontitis, the more destructive stage of gum disease may require root planing and scaling by a dentist or hygienist to rid the mouth of plaque and tartar buildup. Antibiotics might be recommended and oral surgery could be necessary depending on how severe the gum disease is.
You should know that it is possible to have periodontal disease without having any symptoms. This makes dental visits and examinations important. The type of treatment you should get depends on the type and severity of gum disease. Good dental hygiene should be practiced in order to prevent gum disease from occurring, becoming worse or recurring. Gum disease does not need to mean you will lose your teeth. In order to maintain good oral hygiene, you should brush, floss, use mouthwash, eat a healthy diet and schedule regular dental examinations.
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