Gum disease, also known was periodontal disease, is an infection of the tissues and bones surrounding and supporting the teeth. The shallow v-shaped crevice between the tooth and the gums is called a sulcus, and gum diseases attack right below the gum line in the sulcus, where it causes the tissues to break down. The sulcus can develop into a pocket as the tissues break down.
There are two stages. Gingivitis is reversible and milder than the periodontitis stage, since it only affects the gums. Gingivitis generally involves having swollen, red gums that bleed easily when one flosses/brushes. Generally it does not cause pain. Gingivitis can turn into periodontitis, which is a much serious and destructive version of periodontal disease. Periodontitis involves the gums pulling away from the teeth, leaving deep pockets where the bacteria can grow and damage the bone that supports the teeth. The gums also shrink back from the teeth, and the teeth may need to be pulled out, or may become loose and fall out.
Gum Disease Causes
People’s mouths are always creating plaque, which is a clear and sticky substance that contains bacteria. The bacteria contains toxins that can irritate the gums and cause gum infection. It is necessary to remove plaque from one’s teeth regularly otherwise the plaque can spread below the gums and damage the tooth-supporting bone. Hardened plaque is known as tartar and has to be removed by a dentist/dental hygienist.
Here are some factors that increase the risk of gum disease occurring:
- Chewing or smoking tobacco
- Certain medications (Steroids, some types of anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, calcium channel blockers and oral contraceptives)
- Uneven teeth
- Bridges that do not fit properly
- Pregnancy/hormonal changes
- Defective fillings
- Poor oral hygiene
- Genetic predisposition
- Weak immunity system, possibly caused by:
*Excessive amounts of stress
*Diabetes and/or other systemic diseases
Gum Disease Warning Signs
- 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
How is Gum Disease Diagnosed?
An oral care expert will know to look for the following:
- Bleeding gums
- Plaque/tartar buildup above and below the gum line
- Areas where the gum tissue is pulling away from the teeth
- Growing pockets between the gums and teeth
Gum Disease Treatment
If the gum disease is mild, simply brushing, flossing, and going to the dentist regularly should be enough to get rid of it.
If the gum disease becomes worse and one has periodontitis, root planing and scaling may be in order. This rids the mouth of plaque and tartar buildup. Antibiotics might be recommended, and surgery could be necessary depending on how severe the disease is.
One can have periodontal disease without having any symptoms. This makes dental visits and examinations important. The type of treatment one should get depends on the type and severity of gum disease. Good dental hygiene should be practiced in order to prevent the disease from occurring, becoming worse, or recurring. Periodontal disease does not mean you will lose your teeth. In order to maintain good oral hygiene, one should brush, floss, use mouthwash, eat a healthy diet, and schedule regular dental examinations.
Source: ADA, Web MD