What is Gum Disease?
Most people have some form of gum disease. It can range from slight redness and inflammation affecting only a couple of teeth to having severe bone loss that affects most of the teeth in the mouth. If left untreated it can result in tooth loss. The disease process can be improved, remain stable or increase in severity depending on your oral hygiene at home and coming in for regular cleanings with your hygienist.
Gum Disease is caused by bacteria. Your mouth is full of different types of naturally occurring bacteria. Some of these bacteria cause cavities and some cause gum disease. The bacteria live in a biofilm of plaque. Plaque is that soft white/yellow substance that sits on your teeth. It can be removed by brushing or flossing. Over time the minerals in your saliva harden plaque onto your teeth. At this point it is known as calculus or tartar and can no longer be removed by brushing or flossing. It must be removed at your dental cleaning by your dental hygienist.
Types of Gum Disease
Gum disease comes in two forms: Gingivitis and Periodontitis. Gingivitis is reversible and periodontitis is irreversible.
Gingivitis means inflammation of the gums. The bacteria in the biofilm of plaque or calculus irritate the gum tissue causing it to become inflamed. Inflamed gums look red, swollen and bleed easily when you brush or floss the affected area. Gingivitis can be reversed by brushing thoroughly, flossing and visiting your dental hygienist to have any calculus present removed.
Periodontitis occurs when gingivitis is left untreated and progresses to affect the bone and ligament that hold the tooth in place. Periodontitis means inflammation around the tooth. In periodontitis calculus and plaque extent deeper into gum tissue creating pockets around the tooth. This process causes the gum tissue to be looser around the tooth allowing more and bacteria to invade the tissue and making it more challenging for you to keep the area clean on your own. The body’s immune system attempts to fight the bacteria invading into these tissues. Over time bacterial toxins and the body’s natural immune response cause destruction to the ligament and bone that holds your tooth in place. Once the bone has been destroyed it never comes back. If this disease process is left untreated it will eventually result in loss of the affected teeth.
Signs and Symptoms
- Red, swollen gums
- Gums that bleed easily
- Tender gums
- Bad breath
- Pain when chewing
- Loose teeth
- Receded gums
Treatment for Gum Disease
If you display any of these symptoms make an appointment with your dentist or hygienist. At this appointment your dental hygienist will take an assessment of your gums by visually examining them, taking measurements with a probe and possibly taking radiographs where they will assess the bone levels.
Your dental hygienist will go over the assessments and develop a treatment plan to address any types of gum disease that you may have. Treatments may include coming in as frequently as every 3, 4 or 6 months for professional cleanings or in some cases referring you to a periodontist, a dentist who specializes in treating more advanced types of gum disease.
The dental hygienist will also make suggestions to improve your at home care routine based on her findings from the assessments taken. The health of your teeth greatly depends on the health of your gums and seeing your dentist and dental hygienist regularly can help ensure you keep them both healthy.
Please feel free to give us a call or email to book an appointment or if you have any questions regarding this article.