What is gum disease?
Periodontal disease, more commonly known as gum disease, is an infection of the gums that surround your teeth caused by naturally occurring plaque that is not properly removed by brushing, flossing and regular professional cleanings. There are different stages of gum disease depending on how advanced the gum infection becomes. Gum disease in its most advanced stages can result in tooth loss. In order to help prevent this from happening, your dentist will check for signs of gum disease by measuring the space between your gums and teeth during your regular checkup.
What can cause gum disease?
Plaque (a sticky deposit on teeth where bacteria multiplies), is what causes periodontal disease. When the plaque is not removed (flossing, brushing, and regular professional cleanings) it continues to grow and build up. When the plaque builds up it can create toxins that target and damage the gums.
There are some factors that increase a patient’s risk of developing gum disease, including:
- Cigarettes or chewing tobacco
- Using steroids, anti-epilepsy medicine, cancer therapy medication, calcium channel blockers, and oral contraceptives, and some other medicines
- Dental equipment that no longer fit such as bridges
- Crooked teeth
- Old Fillings
What are the stages of gum disease?
Stage 1: Healthy Gums & Teeth.
It is important to brush and floss daily and see your dentist regularly for professional cleanings to ensure that plaque buildup on the teeth is removed and your healthy teeth and gums are maintained!
Stage 2: Gingivitis.
When plaque is left on the teeth for too long it becomes harmful and causes bacteria. The bacteria can cause gum inflammation called gingivitis. Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease and can usually be reversed with a healthy regimen of brushing and flossing daily and more frequent regular cleanings by a dentist or hygienist.
Stage 3: Periodontal Pockets.
Untreated gingivitis will continue to advance to a more severe infection of the gums. When plaque and tartar are left to breed more and more bacteria on the teeth, the buildup will spread below the gum line where brushing, flossing and a regular dental cleaning cannot reach. The gums will then begin to pull away from the teeth creating pockets between the teeth and gums. These pockets are the perfect breeding ground for more infection.
Stage 4: Periodontitis.
In response to the growing periodontal pockets and increased bacteria, the body will release bacterial toxins to fight the infection below the gums. Unfortunately the same toxins the body releases to help fight the infection will also begin to breakdown the connective tissues and bone that hold the teeth in place. If left untreated for long enough the teeth will become loose and either fall out or will need to be removed.
What are the warning signs and symptoms
Symptoms can include:
- Red, swollen or tender gums
- Gums bleed easily
- Swollen and tender gums
- Gums pulling away from the teeth
- Bad breath or bad taste that persists
- Adult teeth that become loose or start separating
- Any change in your bite
- Change in the fit of partial dentures
Treating Periodontal Disease
Depending on the severity of each case treatment for gum disease can include:
- At-home periodontal trays
- Professional in-office deep cleanings (scaling and root planing)
- Laser gum surgery and periodontal surgery
- Dental Implants
If you suspect that you may have gum disease, please consult your dentist! A dentist can help you assess the severity of your periodontal disease and determine a treatment plan and next steps to treat and heal your gums to get your oral health back on track!