Gum Disease: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments
Gum disease is a lot more serious than you might think, and can even lead to serious surgical interventions. The more we know about gum disease, the more likely we are to be able to prevent it, and if we do get it, identifying the problem early on and getting help can save us a lot of discomfort.
Causes of gum disease
Our mouths are home to bacteria. We can see this when bacteria form plaque on our teeth. This plaque can be brushed away, but if left to harden, it turns into hard tartar that can only be removed by a dental professional. These same bacteria cause gum disease, which is just one more reason to brush our teeth regularly. But even if we do, gum disease can still develop.
Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease
When bacteria in our mouths infect the gums, they become inflamed. Our gums become red and painful, and when we brush our teeth, they easily begin to bleed. Although you still haven’t lost any bone or tissue, this is the time to take action. You will need a dentist’s help to clean away tartar from your teeth, and he or she can advise you as to what steps you can take at home. Usually, you’ll be told to up the ante when you brush and floss.
Periodontitis is more serious
Periodontitis develops from gingivitis that hasn’t been treated in time. Now your gums begin to recede from your teeth and infected pockets develop in these new spaces. By ow, plaque is starting to grow beneath the gum line. The immune system is fighting this all the way, but not to your benefit! The bacteria release metabolites that break down bone, and your immune system also attacks the bone to get at the bacteria. A dentist can still help you, but if you let this process go to far, your teeth will become loosened, and the bone that supports them will become weakened so that there is no option other than extraction.
Some people are more prone to gum disease than others.
- Smokers are at risk of developing gum disease. It’s just one more reason why you should kick the habit if it is one of your vices.
- Female hormone changes can make girls and women more susceptible to gum disease. Get help when you notice signs of gingivitis.
- Diabetes makes you prone to contracting infections, and gum disease is just one of them. Be on the alert.
- Certain illnesses and medications can promote gum disease. When brushing your teeth look for signs of inflammation and sensitivity.
- Genetics aren’t always on your side, and some people are genetically predisposed to gum disease. See your dentist as soon as possible if you notice soreness, swelling, or bleeding gums.
- The first symptoms to look out for are redness, pain when brushing teeth or eating, and a tendency towards bleeding. As the disease progresses, other symptoms begin to show.
- Your breath smells bad.
- Your gums appear to be receding (some people think their teeth are getting longer)
- Teeth begin to loosen.
When you visit your dentist, he or she will examine your mouth carefully to see how far the gum disease has progressed. X-rays may be taken to evaluate the extent of bone-loss that has taken place.
The first step in treatment will be to get the infection under control. To get rid of the plaque that is causing the problem, the dentist may have to do scaling and root planing. Scaling removes plaque and tartar on the tooth surface, while root planing actually smooths off the spots where bacteria can breed on the tooth’s root itself. Sometimes, lasers are used to limit pain and bleeding.
You may receive prescription medication that will be used to get gum disease under control, but if things have progressed too far, you may have to go for surgery to save your teeth.
Flap surgery is used to clean up the spaces under the gums where bacteria have begun to breed, and to tighten up the gums around the teeth once more. In severe cases, steps have to be taken to replace lost bone and tissue, and this calls for bone and tissue grafting.
It never has to get this far…
Good oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups would prevent gum disease from advancing to this level, and if you suspect you may have gingivitis, prompt action will protect you from periodontitis.