Gum disease, also known as periodontitis or periodontal disease, is a serious bacterial growth that destroys the tissue surrounding your teeth. Divided into two general stages, gingivitis (gum inflammation), and this tends to precede the second stage, periodontitis (gum disease), but this is not always the case.

Difference between normal tooth and gum disease.
Vector image of gum disease, surface caries, deep caries, pulpitis periodontitis.

The Difference Between Gingivitis and Periodontitis

During the early stage of gingivitis, bacteria in plaque builds up, which causes the gums to become inflamed. You will likely see this as a sign of bleeding during tooth brushing, meaning the teeth are still planted in their sockets with no irreversible bone or tissue damage. If gingivitis goes untreated, it can lead to periodontitis, This is where the inner layer of the gum and bone pulls away from the teeth and forms “pockets.” The pockets collect debris and can get infected. Over time, the toxins produced by the bacteria in the plaque break down the bone and connective tissue that hold the teeth in place, which opens the pockets furthermore, destroying the gum tissue and bone, resulting in tooth loss.

What Are the Causes of Gum Disease?

Apart from plaque, risk factors contributing to gum disease include:

  • Poor oral hygiene habits like not brushing and flossing on a daily basis.
  • Bad habits like smoking and chewing tobacco, which makes it harder for gum tissue to repair itself.
  • Hormonal changes make gums more sensitive. These can include hormonal changes occurring during pregnancy, menopause, menstruation, and puberty.
  • Illnesses that interfere with the immune system, such as cancer or HIV. 
  • Those with diabetes are at risk of developing gum disease, as it affects the body’s ability to use blood sugar, making them a higher risk of developing infections.
  • Using certain medications, such as oral contraceptives, anticonvulsants, and calcium channel blockers. Some lessen the flow of saliva, therefore reducing its protective effect on teeth and gums. 
  • Those with a family history of dental disease can also be at risk of developing gum disease.

What Are the Symptoms of Gum Disease?

Gum disease can progress subtly, without pain. You may not notice any obvious signs, but there are some key warning signs and symptoms to look out for, including:

  • Bleeding gums, either during or after tooth brushing.
  • Red, tender, or swollen gums.
  • Bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth.
  • Noticing a change in how your teeth fit together when biting down.
  • Receding gums.
  • Forming deep pockets between the teeth and gums.
  • Loose or shifting teeth.
  • Abscesses developing under the gums or teeth. 

Even without any symptoms, you may still have some degree of gum disease. Gum disease may affect certain teeth, such as the molars. In rare cases, a condition known as Acute Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis (ANUG, sometimes known as trench mouth) can develop suddenly, with more severe symptoms than gum disease, which can include:

  • Bleeding and painful gums.
  • Painful ulcers.
  • Receding gums in between your teeth.
  • Persistent bad breath. 
  • A metallic taste in your mouth.
  • Excess saliva.
  • Difficulty talking or swallowing.
  • A high temperature.

In these instances, it is essential to schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible.

How Is Gum Disease Treated?

Gum disease treatment options depend on the stage of the disease, and the health of the individual. They can range from nonsurgical therapies to surgery to restore the supporting tissues. They consist of non-surgical and surgical treatments:

Non-Surgical Treatments 

Professional Dental Cleaning. Your dentist or dental hygienist removes the plaque and tartar from above and below the gum line of the teeth. While dental cleanings are not a direct treatment for gum disease, they are a key preventive measure.

Scaling and Root Planing. This is a deep-cleaning procedure under a local anesthetic, where the dentist scrapes the plaque and tartar (hardened plaque) from above and below the gum line, known as scaling. The dentist smooths out the rough spots on the tooth root, known as planing, which removes bacteria and provides a clean surface for the gums to reattach to the teeth. 

Surgical Treatments for Gum Disease

If gum disease has progressed, surgical treatment may be essential. These can consist of:

Flap Surgery/Pocket Reduction Surgery. This procedure consists of the dentist lifting the gums back to remove the tartar from areas bacteria may lurk, and smoothing the surfaces of the damaged bone to reduce the surface areas of bacteria. After removing the tartar, the gums move closer around the tooth to reduce the space size between gum and tooth.

Bone Surgery. Following flap surgery, the bone around the tooth undergoes reshaping. This decreases the craters, making it more difficult for bacteria to grow.

Bone Grafts. This involves using fragments of your bone to replace any bone destroyed by gum disease, This provides a platform for bone regrowth, restoring stability to teeth. 

Soft Tissue Grafts. Similar to bone grafts, but this procedure uses grafted tissue, usually from the roof of the mouth, and stitches it in place to areas where the gums are receding. 

Other Treatment Options for Gum Disease

In addition to surgical and non-surgical treatments, other treatment options include:

Antibiotic and Microbial Treatments, used in combination with surgery and other therapies,  can include chlorhexidine, doxycycline, tetracycline, and minocycline.

Antibacterial Toothpaste. Some nonprescription antibacterial toothpaste may contain fluoride and an antibiotic called triclosan to reduce plaque and gingivitis. 

How Can I Prevent Gum Disease?

The key to preventing gum disease consists of consistent oral hygiene:

  • Visit the dentist regularly for checkups.
  • Brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss your teeth every day.
  • Eating a balanced diet.
  • Professional cleanings by your dentist, occurring at least twice a year.

Health Conditions Associated With Gum Disease

It is also important to note that, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research found that gum disease or periodontal disease might lead to an increased risk for the following:

  • Diabetes.
  • Heart disease.
  • Stroke.
  • Lung disease.

Gum disease is nothing to smile about and can go undetected for a long time. If you are looking for advice or just need a simple checkup to make sure gum disease is nowhere in your mouth, contact Godley Station Dental or schedule an appointment online.

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