What is Gum Disease?
Would you be concerned if your hands bled every time you washed them? The answer is yes, you probably would, yet many people think it’s completely normal if their gums bleed when they floss or brush. The truth is, this could be a sign of periodontal (gum) disease.
If you have told that you have gum disease you are not alone. Recent data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that gum disease is prevalent in up to 50% of the American adult population. Periodontal symptoms can range anywhere from simple gum inflammation to a serious disease that causes significant damage to the bone and soft tissue that support the teeth. The most severe cases can even result in teeth loss.
Depending on how well you take care of your teeth and gums on a daily basis, symptoms can get worse, be slowed, or stopped.
What is gum disease?
Gum disease is an infection of the gums and tissue that support and surround your teeth. It is one of the major causes of loss of teeth in adults. Gum disease is often painless, and some people don’t even know that they have it.
Here are some warning signs that could signal a problem:
- Tender, swollen, or red gums
- Gums that bleed when your brush or floss
- Gums that have started to pull away from the teeth
- Persistent bad tastes or bad breath
- Teeth that are separating or loose
- Any change in bite
- Any change in the fit of your partial dentures
What causes gum disease?
Our mouths are naturally filled with bacteria. This bacteria, along with other particles such as mucus, is constantly forming a sticky and colorless film known as plaque on our teeth even just hours we have brushed. Plaque that doesn’t get removed by regular brushing, flossing, and dental visits eventually spreads below the gum line where your toothbrush can’t reach. If it doesn’t get removed it can cause a more serious infection. As the buildup of plaque continues to get worse, the gumline becomes inflamed causing the tissues to eventually detach from the tooth and gums. If not treated, the body’s inflammatory response can spread to the alveolar bone and periodontal ligament, causing these structures to be destroyed.
As plaque continues to build on the teeth and spread under the gums, it becomes hardened, or calcified – also known as tartar, which cannot be removed with regular brushing. Only a professional cleaning by our dentists at Spokane Dental can remove tartar. These damaging processes can lead to bleeding, swollen gum, signs of gingivitis (early periodontal disease) and the even more serious cases of the loosening of your teeth, a sign of severe periodontitis (advanced stages).
Types of Gum Disease
Gingivitis that is not treated can lead to periodontitis, eventually advancing into teeth loss and other serious health problems.
Gingivitis is the early onset of periodontal disease. Known for it’s more milder form, there is little to no daily discomfort during this stage. Gingivitis is typically caused by inadequate oral hygiene, causing the gums to become swollen, red, and bleed easily. This stage is reversible with professional treatment by our dentists at Spokane Dental and good oral home care.
Factors that could contribute to the onset of gingivitis include use of certain medications, smoking, substance abuse, diabetes, pregnancy, aging, inadequate nutrition, genetic predisposition, HIV infection, hormonal fluctuations, and systemic diseases and conditions.
Gingivitis that has been left untreated can lead to the development of periodontitis. In time, plaque can grow and start to spread beneath the gumline. The bacteria in plaque will irritate the gums and stimulate a bacterial infection. Interestingly enough, it is our body’s natural response to this infection that causes most of the problem. When we don’t brush or floss often enough, our body takes it upon itself to eliminate the bacteria in our mouths. The cells within our immune system releases substances that cause inflammation and the destruction of gums, causing the body to effectively turn on itself. The gum separates and forms pockets that become severely infected. As the disease continues to progress, these pockets start to deepen causing more bone and gum tissue is destroyed. Although this sounds severe, and rightfully so, this destructive process actually has pretty mild visible symptoms. But eventually, teeth loose their strength and may have to be removed.
Luckily, gum diseases are very preventable. Visiting our dentists here at Spokane Dental regularly (once every six months, or more often if you are diagnosed with gum disease) can help prevent periodontal disease and even reverse the effects of gingivitis.
To ensure your oral hygiene care at home, add these habits into your daily routine:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day. Brush your teeth after meals to remove any food debris along with plaque that is trapped between your gums and your teeth. Remember to scrub your tongue, bacteria loves to hide here!
- Floss once a day. Taking the time to floss at least once a day will help in removing plaque and food particles in areas that brushing can miss: along your gum line and between your teeth.
- Don’t forget the mouthwash. Mouthwash can do wonders in the prevention and reduction of plaque, in addition to aiding in the removal of any food particles that may have been missed during flossing and brushing.
- Understand your risks. Genetics, diet, smoking, and age all raise your risk for periodontal disease. If you have an increased risk for periodontal disease, be sure to talk with our dental professionals.
What to do if you have gum disease
See a periodontics. Our professionals at Spokane Dental can help you schedule a comprehensive periodontal evaluation (CPE). A CPE will look at your gums, teeth, plaque levels, and bone structure along with other risk factors for signs of gum disease. Identifying these symptoms is key to preserving your teeth and oral health for a lifetime.