Gum disease. It definitely sounds scary. Scary enough to keep up those bi-annual dental check-ups? Scary enough to floss between your teeth even if you’re too tired to get those arms moving? It ought to be; but sadly, people treat gum disease as something that “won’t happen to me.” Until it does- and your dentist becomes your new best friend (dentists are friendly people).
What is gum disease?
Medically known as “periodontal disease,” gum disease is the inflammation of the gums and dental tissues, that can, in severe cases, progress to affect the bone that keeps your teeth anchored to their sockets.
What causes gum disease?
Bacteria, or rather, the bacteria in plaque, is the main culprit behind gum disease. Bacteria feed on the sugars that are not removed from your teeth, and as a result, produce acids. These acids combine with the bacteria and your saliva to form plaque. If you’re not much of a brusher or flosser, the plaque will build up and the bacteria from the plaque will begin infecting the gums. If the resulting inflammation doesn’t have you ringing up the dentist for an appointment or upping the ante on your oral hygiene- the bacteria will eventually infect the gum tissue and oral bone.
What are the risk factors?
Other factors that contribute to the development of gum disease include:
- Tobacco usage;
- Hormone levels during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause;
- Use of contraceptives;
- Diabetes mellitus;
- Cancer and cancer treatments;
- Exposure to heavy metals;
- Medication for epilepsy;
- Alcohol consumption;
What are the stages of gum disease?
Gum disease can be divided into three stages, depending on how severe and how far-progressed it is.
Stage 1: Gingivitis (mild)
The first stage of gum disease, referred to as gingivitis, involves the build-up of plaque. The bacteria in plaque irritates the gums, causing inflammation.
Symptoms include tender, swollen gums that are bright red and tend to bleed easily, as well as bad breath, which may or may not be present. Being a mild form of gum disease, gingivitis can be reversed with early treatment and proper oral care.
Stage 2: Periodontitis (moderate)
Periodontitis is the progression of gingivitis that results in plaque forming below the gum line. If left untreated, the plaque hardens into tartar, which requires a professional cleaning to be removed.
- Tender, swollen gums that bleed easily;
- A foul odour in the mouth;
- Recession of the gums, leading to the formation of periodontal pockets that trap even more bacteria;
- Exposure of the oral bone as a result of the gums pulling back from the teeth.
At this stage, periodontitis can be reversed through extensive dental treatment that is sought as early as possible.
Stage 3: Advanced Periodontitis (severe)
Advanced periodontitis is the most severe stage of gum disease. It results in the deepening of periodontal pockets which promotes further bacterial growth that causes serious damage to the oral bone supporting your teeth.
- Pus filling in the periodontal pockets;
- Swelling around the tooth root;
- Loss of support to teeth, causing teeth to fall off or require an extraction.
How is gum disease diagnosed?
Methods used by your dentist to diagnose gum disease include:
A review of your medical history
This would indicate whether or not your symptoms could be related to another dental condition or if certain risk factors have contributed to the development of gum disease.
An examination of your mouth
An examination could reveal a build-up of plaque or tartar, as well as inflamed gums.
Advanced periodontitis is generally associated with bone loss, which can be picked up from dental x-rays.
Treatment of gum disease
Treatment of gum disease involves:
- Cleaning of the periodontal pockets around the teeth, which is done by your dentist.
- Scaling, which is a procedure used to remove the tartar and bacteria from the surface of your teeth and below your gum line.
- Root planning, which is the smoothing down of the rough areas on the roots’ surfaces. Having a smooth root surface prevents plaque and tartar from sticking underneath the gum line.
- Taking oral and topical antibiotics, which will be prescribed by your dentist to eliminate bacteria.
- Surgical treatments, which are only needed for advanced forms of gum disease.
Treatment of gum disease at Crookes and Jenkins Dental!
Treating gum disease during the earlier stages is important to your oral health, and is therefore important to us. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with gum disease- give us a call and let us help! Our team at Crookes and Jenkins Dental will be more than happy to answer any of your questions.