Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is an infection that can harm your oral health by affecting the gums around your teeth. This condition can result in tooth loss and is not easy to detect since it does not cause pain. During routine checkups, your dentist will check for any signs of periodontal disease by examining the area between your gums and teeth.
What causes gum disease?
The accumulation of plaque, a bacterial substance that adheres to teeth, is responsible for the onset of gum disease. Failure to eliminate plaque through proper oral hygiene practices, such as brushing, flossing, and regular dental checkups, can result in the buildup of toxins that can harm the gums. Periodontal disease occurs beneath the gum line and creates tiny pockets that separate the gums from the teeth. The condition has two stages, namely, gingivitis and periodontitis.
- Gingivitis ‘ During the initial phase of gum disease, the gums appear red and swollen and are prone to bleeding. Fortunately, this stage is reversible and can be resolved by implementing a daily oral care routine of brushing and flossing.
- Periodontitis ‘ If left untreated, gingivitis can progress into periodontitis, which can cause irreparable damage to the gums and teeth-supporting bone. Periodontitis-infected gums can lead to teeth becoming loose, falling out, or requiring removal by a dentist. It’s crucial to address gingivitis promptly to avoid these potential consequences.
Periodontal disease can be triggered by various factors that should be considered. These factors include:
- Poor oral hygiene: Inadequate brushing, flossing, and infrequent dental check-ups
- Tobacco use: Smoking or using tobacco products weakens oral health and impairs the immune response
- Genetic predisposition: Certain genetic variations can make individuals more susceptible to gum infections.
- Hormonal changes: Fluctuations during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause can make gums more sensitive.
- Systemic diseases: Conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases weaken the immune system.
- Medications: Some medications and their side effects can increase the risk of gum disease.
- Poor nutrition: A diet lacking essential nutrients weakens the immune system and hampers oral health.
- Stress: Chronic stress weakens the immune response and can lead to harmful oral habits.
While it is possible to have periodontal disease and not be aware of it, specific symptoms may indicate its presence. These symptoms include:
- Red, swollen, or tender gums: Healthy gums should appear pink and firm. If your gums are red, swollen, or tender, it may be a sign of gum inflammation.
- Bleeding gums: Bleeding while brushing, flossing, or eating hard foods is abnormal.
- Persistent bad breath: Halitosis or persistent bad breath can indicate gum infection.
- Receding gums: If your teeth appear longer than usual or if you notice that your gums are pulling away from your teeth, it may be a sign of gum recession.
- Loose or shifting teeth: As periodontal disease progresses, the supporting structures of the teeth, including the gums and bone, can be damaged.
- Changes in bite or fit of dentures: If your bite feels different or your dentures no longer fit properly, it could be due to bone loss.
Treatment for Gum Disease:
The way gum disease is treated differs depending on the extent of the condition. Common treatments include:
- Non-surgical options like using at-home periodontal trays and scaling and root planing (deep cleaning)
- Periodontal surgery and laser gum surgery
- Dental implants.
Preventing Gum Disease
Prioritizing routine dental checkups and periodontal examinations is essential to maintain your overall health and smile health. Proper oral hygiene practices at home can reduce the likelihood of ever experiencing gum disease and losing teeth. Remember to brush your teeth regularly, clean between them, follow a balanced diet, and schedule regular dental appointments to maintain your healthy smile.