When discussing oral health, more often than not we are focusing on teeth-related issues from caries (tooth cavities) to abscess to cosmetic dental treatments. However, our gums are also crucial for our overall oral health. Gums are the ones supporting the teeth, and when gum diseases occur, it can cause various issues from bad breath to bleeding gums to tooth loss.
Gum disease, however, might not cause pain or discomfort at its earliest stage, so you might not even realize that you have an issue until it’s too late.
Here, we will discuss all you need to know about gum disease from its cause to treatment options.
Definition of Gum Disease
There are actually two major types of gum diseases: gingivitis and periodontitis.
Gingivitis is the medical term for gum inflammation, where the main symptoms are:
- Swollen and puffy gums
- Reddened gums
- Gums bleed easily during normal tooth brushing or flossing
- Bad breath/ halitosis
- Receding gums
The main cause of gingivitis is bacterial infection due to plaque build-up, so proper oral hygiene practices and using fluoride products are usually effective in preventing gingivitis.
When left untreated, gingivitis can (but not always) advance to periodontitis, which is a more severe case of gum infection. All symptoms for gingivitis still apply, with additional ones:
- pocket of pus (abscess) between your teeth and gums. This space can develop larger and ultimately the gum won’t hold your tooth, causing tooth loss
- New spaces between your teeth
- Loose teeth
- Painful chewing (even with normal bite)
- In severe cases (late stage of periodontitis), gum tissue and bone are destroyed
What Causes Gum Disease?
While there can be various causes to gum diseases, the most common cause is a bacterial infection due to plaque buildup. So, maintaining a good oral hygiene practice to avoid plaque buildup can effectively prevent gingivitis and periodontitis. Other factors that might cause gum diseases include:
- Non-oral illnesses, especially those that attack the immune system like HIV. Cancer and diabetes can also increase the risk of developing infections.
- Medications that interfere with saliva production (and thus causing dry mouth) can increase the risk of gum inflammation and might allow abnormal growth of gum tissue.
- Smoking habits (or chewing tobacco) dan interfere with the gum tissue’s ability to repair itself, increasing the risk of injuries and infections
- Hormonal changes like during puberty, menopause, pregnancy,and menstruation can encourage the development of gingivitis
How Will Your Dentist Diagnose Gum Disease?
There are three main signs your Dentist in McAllen will look for during a dental exam:
- Teeth alignment, movement (if there are any loose teeth), and sensitivity
- Bleeding and swelling on your gums, firmness, and pocket (the space between the gum and tooth, where your dentist will examine with a special tool). The deepe the pocket, the more severe the gum disease
- Bone near the gum tissue, especially your jawbone, gum disease can destroy your bone, so the dentist will examine whether there is any breakdown surrounding your teeth.
Gum Disease Treatment
There are two main goals of gum disease treatment: clearing the infection, and promote the reattachment of your now-healthy gums to your teeth.
Antibiotics are usually prescribed to eliminate bacteria causing the infection, and various surgical and non-surgical treatments might be performed:
- Professional dental cleaning: since the major cause of gingivitis is plaque, professional cleaning to remove plaque and tartar is sufficient to treat mild gingivitis, so that the now-clean gums can heal itself. The dentist might also perform scaling and root planing, a deep cleaning procedure on spaces above and below the gum (between the gums and the teeth).
- Pocket reduction surgery: a surgical procedure to lift the gums and remove tartar, and then the gums are placed closer to the tooth—reducing the pocket between the gum and the tooth—.
- Bone grafts: replacing bone destroyed by gum disease using your own bone from other places, synthetic bone, or donated bone.
- Gum tissue graft: replacing thin or damaged gums with grafted tissue, commonly using tissue from the roof of the mouth.
- Bone surgery: smoothing damaged bone to decrease the craters—where bacteria can grow—.
Gum Disease And Other Health Issues
The bacteria causing the gum infection can make their way into your bloodstream, and spread to various organs. In most cases, they will be harmless, but there are cases where these bacteria can infect other organs, causing heart disease and/or stroke. Gum disease can also make diabetes worse since the condition will prevent the gum tissue to heal itself.
Gum Disease Prevention
As we can see above, when gingivitis has developed to periodontitis, the condition is very serious and might require a surgical treatment to correct it—that might be expensive and difficult—. Gingivitis, however, can be totally cured and the progression can be stopped when a good oral hygiene practice is performed to control plaque buildup.
With that being said, the best way to prevent gum disease is regularly practicing three things:
- Brush your teeth twice a day—with fluoride toothpaste—
- Floss at least once daily to remove food debris and plaque from between the teeth
- Visit your dentist for a professional dental cleaning at least once every six months.
Besides those three, there are other things you can do to decrease the risks of developing gum disease and decreasing the speed of its development:
- Stop tobacco consumption. Smoking and chewing tobacco can increase the risk of getting gum disease by 700%. Also, tobacco consumption can lower the success rate of gum disease treatments.
- Maintain a good diet. Proper, healthy diet can help your body in fighting infections.
- Don’t stress yourself. Stress can lower your body’s immune system.
Gum disease can develop into very serious conditions leading to severe pain and even tooth loss. Fortunately, early stage of gum disease (gingivitis) is relatively easy to treat and prevent, with maintaining good oral hygiene practices being the key.
If you suspect yourself suffering from symptoms of gum disease, contact Markham dentist immediately and schedule an appointment. It is wise to treat gingivitis early before it develops into major injections.