Gum disease is also known as a periodontal illness and is considered the most common dental health issue. The vast majority of people can get exposed to this problem. In addition to that, this disease can develop and progress for months before you notice the symptoms. Therefore, it is highly important to determine the signs of gum disease before it causes permanent damage.
What is gum disease?
Gum disease or periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues that hold the teeth in place. The typical causes of this disease are poor brushing and flossing habits that allow plaque (a sticky film of bacteria) to build upon and harden on the teeth. Sore and bleeding gums, painful chewing and even tooth loss can be a result of severe stages of gum disease.
How does this condition occur?
Periodontal disease occurs when bacteria colonize the gums. It starts with the gum-line where the soft tissue meets the teeth. In order to maintain proper oral health, these bacteria must be disrupted through brushing on a regular basis. When bacteria settle on the teeth, they cause a sticky film that further in time develops into plaque. The same works for gum disease but it attacks the soft tissue that is aimed to supply the blood flow to the teeth. As a result, a person will encounter painful lesions on the gums, loss of bone structure and even loose teeth.
What are the causes of gum disease?
It is a well-known fact that our mouth is full of different bacteria. Sticky and colorless plaque on the teeth is formed by these bacteria along with the mucus and other particles. Specialists say that brushing and flossing can help get rid of plaque. If the plaque is not completely removed it can harden and form tartar that brushing is not able to clean. Tartar can be only removed by professional cleaning at the dentist’s office.
Specialists differentiate between a number of risk factors that can cause gum disease. However, the most significant and common one is smoking. In addition to that, smoking prevents the proper treatment of periodontal disease. There are also other potential causes of this condition and they are as follows:
- Hormonal changes in women and girls
- Medicine that lessens the flow of salvia
- Several illnesses such as AIDS and the medications associated with it
- Genetic susceptibility
What are the symptoms of gum disease?
It is possible to determine and treat the problem before it gets severe if you are aware of the gum disease symptoms. The following section focuses on depicting the most common symptoms of periodontal disease.
- Bad breath: as was previously mentioned your mouth is home for a number of bacteria. They tend to feed on plaque and the more of that you have the bigger the buffet. These bacteria release toxins that can irritate the gums and teeth and as a result, lead to a foul smell. It should be also mentioned that bad breath can be a signal of more serious gum disease. The smell from your mouth does not change significantly if you have gingivitis.
- Swollen and red gums: the most important gum disease signs indicating that your gums need attention. This condition normally starts with the inflammation along the gum line. You might also experience your gums being painful and tender and encounter bleeding while flossing or brushing the teeth.
- Sensitive teeth: your teeth may be signaling something to you if a sip of a cold or hot drink makes you wince. This is also a common gum disease symptom. Dentists say that it also goes hand in hand with shrinking gums. When the gums are receding the sensitive part of the tooth is exposed, which causes sensitive teeth when exposed to cold or hot drinks.
- Shifting teeth: because of periodontal disease, your smile can look different. This happens because of the fact that this condition can attack the bones that hold your teeth in place, which makes them loose and/or move. Gum disease is the main cause of this and sometimes it can even change the way your teeth fit together when you bite.
How is gum disease diagnosed?
The gum disease is generally diagnosed during the dentist visit during which he/she will examine your gums and determine whether there is inflammation. Specialists also make use of a special tiny ruler, which is called a probe. It assists in checking and measuring any pockets around the teeth. Doctors say that in the healthy mouth the depth of these pockets is normally between 1 and 3 millimeters. In addition to that, the test for pocket depth is generally painless.
Your doctor will ask you about your medical history in order to determine conditions or risk factors such as diabetes or smoking that might cause gum disease. Apart from that, specialists might also make use of x-ray imaging in order to see where there is any bone loss. You should not take any treatment measures before having a thorough consultation with your periodontist. Only he/she will be able to diagnose and treat the gum disease and offer you the treatment options that will work best for your personal situation.
How can gum disease be treated?
The main goal of gum disease treatment is to control the infection. Before getting started, your dentist will determine what has been affected. The following section depicts the most commonly used methods of periodontal disease treatment.
Deep cleaning: normally, treatment of this condition starts with careful, in-depth cleaning. The main difference from regular cleaning is the fact that deep cleaning goes under the gum line. Doctors typically use special instruments for this procedure. Apart from that, a doctor might also go for scaling, which involves scraping off tartar both below the gum line and above. Another option available is root planing, which involves smoothing out the rough surfaces of the roots of your teeth. It assists in reattaching your gums to your mouth. All the aforementioned approaches involve more than one dentist visit.
Medications: it should be mentioned that there is no magic cream or pill that can immediately cure your gum disease. However, as part of the treatment process, your doctor may prescribe certain medications. The first option is antiseptic chips, which are inserted into pockets in your gum. They help to reduce the size of the pocket and get rid of bacteria. The second option is an antibiotic gel, which you have to spread on the gum pockets after deep cleaning in order to control infection. The third available option is the enzyme suppressant. They come in a tablet that you have to take after deep cleaning. This medication is able to block certain enzymes in your mouth from breaking down gum tissue. Oral antibiotics can also be an option. They are typically used for more severe infections.
Surgery: this is normally the last option that dentists recommend and it is generally effective when deep cleaning and medications are not able to take care of the whole issue. Your doctor can advise making use of gum graft surgery, which involves a surgeon taking tissue from another part of your mouth and covering the exposed tooth roots. It is done for the purpose of preventing bone loss or decay and helping sensitive teeth.
Another type of surgery available is flap surgery during which gums are lifted up so the surgeon can get at tartar deep underneath the gum line. The next step is stitching the gum back in place in order to make sure that it is tight around the tooth. This is done for the prevention of tartar from forming.