What is Gum Disease

If you have ever seen toothpaste commercials you’ve heard the words “gum disease”. Your hygienist has probably even mentioned it or the words “gingivitis” or “periodontitis”. Vague images of gums bleeding may have popped up into your mind, but have you ever wondered ‘what does that really mean?’

Here at Spokane Dental we want you to know the facts. We believe if you are educated about your health and know what is going on then you will know how to prevent it, and we are all about prevention! Today on the blog we are providing you with just that: education on what gum disease really is.

What is gum disease or periodontal disease?

Gum disease is an inflammatory disease that is caused by an immune response fighting off the bacteria present in your mouth. Just as with the rest of your body, there are good bacteria and bad bacteria found in your mouth. The bad bacteria has a tendency to grow like crazy when we miss spots brushing, don’t floss, or don’t make it in for a regular routine dental cleaning.

The bad bacteria like dark, warm, and wet places. They colonize under your gums and attach to the teeth. These sophisticated colonies grow and harden overtime, forming what is known as calculus or tartar buildup on your teeth. Your body tries to fight off this bacteria with an immune response, and that immune response causes bone loss and gum recession away from the bacterial infection.

Put simply, gum disease is an infectious and inflammatory disease of the soft (gum) and hard (bone) tissue around your teeth.

What is the difference between gingivitis and periodontitis?

So, are gingivitis and periodontitis the same thing? Not quite. Gingivitis occurs when the infection or inflammation is solely in the soft tissues a.k.a. your gums. It manifests as red instead of pink gums that are inflamed and bleed. Periodontitis happens when the infection spreads and involves the bone holding your teeth in (called alveolar bone). The bone starts to recede, forming deeper periodontal pockets. Dental probing (when you hear your hygienist list off the numbers 1 2 3 etc.) is a diagnostic tool to check on how your gums are doing underneath the surface. It also is a diagnostic tool to check your alveolar bone level. If you have a pocket deeper than three, the infection is most likely causing bone loss. Another diagnostic tool we use to detect periodontal disease is x-rays. On x-rays we can see the crest of the alveolar bone between the teeth and diagnose how severe the periodontal involvement is.

Why does gum disease matter?

The bone and gums that are involved in periodontal disease are what hold your teeth in. When you lose bone you lose teeth. We are in the business of keeping your teeth healthy, so we want to make sure that you have every tool that you need to do so, which includes your own body working for you.

How do you treat it?

Periodontal Screening Video

According to Coeur d'Alene Dental Center, "The good news is that periodontal disease can be controlled. In some cases, it can even be reversed. Periodontal treatment can make your mouth healthier and help preserve your teeth."

As always, your home care is essential to fighting inflammation in your mouth. A regular routine of brushing twice a day, flossing once a day, and eating healthy is important to reducing the bacteria in your mouth. Mouthwashes such as Listerine or Crest Pro Health also employ antibacterial agents that can lower overall bacterial count in your mouth, although they do not remove plaque from your teeth. When plaque is left on the teeth underneath the gums where your toothbrush can’t reach, the only way to take it off is with mechanical removal by your dental hygienist.

At Spokane Dental we customize all of our patients’ care. We assess the health of your gums and periodontium (a.k.a. everything holding your teeth in), and then pick what treatment is right for you. Studies show that seeing patients with moderate to severe periodontal disease on a three month schedule rather than a six month schedule allows the hygienist to remove the bacteria on a more regular basis where it builds up quicker in deeper pockets. We also can do more involved cleanings such as scaling and root planing or “deep cleaning“.

At Spokane Dental we are committed to serving each of our patients in the best way possible for their specific health. That is why we use the diagnostic tools and customized care, and we take the time to educate our patients here and in the office.