Gum disease is also known as periodontal disease, and is an infection of the gums surrounding your teeth.
Gum disease is one of the top reasons for tooth loss in adults, and because it is virtually pain free, many patients do not know they have the disease. During each regular check up, our dentist will check for signs of periodontal disease by measuring the space between your teeth and gums.
What Causes Gum Disease?
Gum disease is caused by a build up of plaque (a sticky form of bacteria that forms on the teeth). If the plaque is not removed (by flossing, brushing, and regular dental check ups), it will continue to build up and create toxins that damage the gums. These toxins eat away at the bone and gum from the inside, which weakens the support for the tooth.
Periodontal disease has two stages: gingivitis and periodontitis.
- Gingivitis — This is the early stage of gum disease, when the gums become red and swollen, and bleed easily. At this stage, the disease is treatable and can usually be eliminated by daily brushing and flossing.
- Periodontitis — If left untreated, gingivitis will advance into periodontitis, and the gums and bone that support the teeth will become seriously and irreversibly damaged. Gums infected with periodontitis often result in teeth becoming loose and falling out. Periodontitis can have serious health implications, including cardiovascular disease and complications with pregnancy.
What is the Difference Between Gingivitis and Periodontitis?
Gingivitis, in its initial stages, is characterized by red, swollen gums (inflammation) and bleeding gum occasioned by brushing your teeth. Aside from this, you may notice a build up of discoloured, an odourless layer of bacteria.
Gingivitis doesn’t always culminate into periodontitis – if it is curbed, the damage is reversible. At the onset, there is no permanent damage to the bone tissue, your teeth are still firm though your gums are suffering repairable inflammation. Removing plaque and preventing its accumulation, in most cases, cures gingivitis.
Periodontitis is an advanced stage of gingivitis. The gums are more diseased but may look identical to gingivitis, or may pull away from the teeth. The bone under the gums is damaged and fragile.
The bacteria that cause these problems part of your normal dental makeup. However, when these bacteria multiply and are not regularly cleaned away, then dental problems occur. The result of this bacterial build up and formation of plaque gives room for a healthy breeding ground for toxins which ultimately can lead to teeth becoming loose and falling out.
How Can I Tell If I Need Gum Disease Treatment?
Gum disease is progressive; the symptoms are subtle, thus not readily detectable. That’s the reason why a trained eye and skill of a dentist or periodontist is useful. Nevertheless, there are tell-tale signs and symptoms that you may notice. They include:
Often this occurs when you are brushing your teeth or flossing and you will notice a small amount of bleeding.
Pus between the gums and teeth
Loosening of teeth and the development of spaces between the teeth and gums becomes clearly visible.
Small pockets where your gums and receding from the teeth, exposing the roots of the gum. In extreme cases, teeth end up appearing longer than their regular length. The roots result in heightened sensitivity when you take hot or cold fluids or foods, which may also be characteristic of Gingivitis.
Since the above are not obvious, they are usually detectable only by a dentist or periodontist. However, gums will be tender, as the body’s immune system fights the bacteria build up. Most importantly, periodontal disease is chronic, subtle and doesn’t give advance warnings as your gum and bone tissue wears away. That’s why regular dental check ups are not stressed enough.
Some Known Causes of Periodontal Disease?
The most popular causes of periodontal disease are environmental and genetic. Here is a list of the commonly known causes:
Poor oral hygiene
Not flossing or cleaning your teeth on a regular basis and ignoring a tartar build up, combined with a lack of professional dental care will lead to disease.
Menopause and pregnancy
You may not be aware but your body undergoes hormonal changes in menopause or pregnancy so calls for a clear understanding and participative action. You need to floss and brush your teeth regularly and appropriately, the disease is multifactorial, this is one way to reduce its risk and halt its progression.
Patients with diabetes, pulmonary, and cardiovascular disease can be susceptible to periodontal disease.
Smokers and those who use tobacco increase their chances of periodontal disease. Tobacco usage allows certain bacteria to thrive in the mouth which hinders the body’s immune response and the dentist’s treatment. Tobacco users also includes those who use electronic cigarettes, pipes or cigars, and snuff, all of these are also oral cancer risks.
What about other risk factors?
Well apart from the above, other factors can put you at a greater risk of developing periodontal disease:
- Certain types of medication such as steroids, anti-epilepsy drugs, some high blood pressure medications, and oral contraceptives
- Crowns and bridges that don’t properly fit
- Crooked teeth
- Old fillings that are no longer smooth