Gum disease is more common than we think. According to the CDC, 50% of adults aged 30 and above suffer from a form of gum disease. The initial phase of gum disease is known as gingivitis and can go undetected whereas the more severe stage of periodontitis is not easy to ignore.
The disease starts as bacteria build up in the mouth and if untreated results in the loss of teeth. The bacteria work to breakdown the gum tissues, weakening the support teeth have.
How is Gingivitis different than Periodontitis?
Gingivitis is the initial phase of developing gum disease, also known as periodontitis. Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gums and doesn’t necessarily mean you will progress to periodontitis.
Gingivitis is caused by the build-up of bacteria in plaque which results in the inflammation of the gums. This results in the gums bleeding often while you brush your teeth. Since the gums are only affected by the inflammation, the teeth remain intact and there is no serious damage to the tissues of the gum at this point.
However, if gingivitis goes untreated it has a very high chance of developing into periodontitis. Periodontitis results in the shrinking of the gums as they start to pull away from the teeth, leaving them more exposed and forming pockets. The pockets give way for bacteria to easily access the teeth, increasing the chances of an infection. The immune system works to fight the bacteria in the plaque but may have difficulties once the bacteria cross the gum line.
With time the bacteria start to release toxins and at the same time so does your immune system to fight off the bacteria. In doing so, the connective tissues and bone that keep the teeth intact start to breakdown. This continues until the bone and tissues are destroyed and the teeth no longer have the anchor to keep them in place. They start to loosen and eventually fall off.
What are the common causes of gum disease?
Plaque isn’t the only factor that contributes to gum disease. It may be the most common factor but the following factors also contribute to the disease:
- As individuals go through hormonal changes during pregnancy, menopause, and puberty the gums become more sensitive which increases the chances of the development of gingivitis.
- Smoking results in the weakening of the gums and also makes it difficult for individuals with gum problems to recover from it.
- Some medications can result in reducing the flow of saliva in your mouth which impacts your oral health. Saliva is used to rid your teeth and gum of bacteria so once its flow is reduced, bacteria can colonize with ease.
- Illnesses that impact the functions of the immune system such as HIV and cancer increase the chances of infections resulting in higher chances of cavities and periodontal disease.
- Genes can also play a role in developing gingivitis, if dental disease is common in your family, you have a higher chance of developing it.
- Bad oral hygiene from not brushing, flossing, and eating a lot of acidic and sugary foods can result in gingivitis.
Symptoms of gum disease
Gum disease starts subtly which is why many individuals affected by it may overlook it. There are some telling signs though that you can notice which should prompt you to consult your dentist immediately. If you experience any of the following, you may have gum disease:
- Gums that bleed often when you brush your teeth. Gums may also bleed from brushing too harshly but with gum disease, gums bleed often and even when you brush gently.
- The feeling of tenderness in your gums, they appear swollen and red.
- You persistently have a bad taste in your mouth and have bad breath.
- You notice your gums starting to recede.
- Deep pockets start to form between the gums and teeth.
- Teeth start to shift or loosen.
The tricky thing with gum disease is that even if these symptoms don’t appear, you may still have it to an extent. It may only affect certain molars rather than multiple teeth which makes it harder to notice. Dentists can help identify whether you have gum disease or not.
How is gum disease diagnosed?
A dentist can help you diagnose gum disease by checking for the following:
- Bleeding and swelling of the gums. How firm the gums are and the depth of their pocket which is the space between the tooth and gum.
- The alignment of the teeth and how sensitive they are.
- Analyze your jawbone, this will help determine the condition of the bones surrounding your teeth.
How can you treat gum disease?
Treatment aims to reattach the gums to the teeth as well as reduce any swelling and any infection to stop the disease from progressing The treatment varies depending on the stage of gum disease and your overall health. There are both surgical and non-surgical options to treat gum disease, these are:
- Dental cleaning: Getting your teeth cleaned professionally includes the removal of plaque and tartar buildup on the surface of your teeth and from within the gum line. For individuals with gum disease, it is recommended you get your teeth professionally cleaned twice a year.
- Scaling and root planing: This is another form of dental cleaning but is deeper than just dental cleaning. Your dentist may use a local anesthetic to scale, scrape away, tartar and plaque and smoothen the roots of the tooth while removing the bacteria from the rough spots of the teeth. This is recommended when there is a lot of plaque or tartar under the gums.
- Flap surgery: In case the bacteria has been deeply rooted in the gum, your dentist would recommend flap surgery. In the process, the gums re lifted so that the tartar can be removed. Your dentist may also suggest that the bones are smoothened so that there is limited area for where bacteria can hide. The surgery results in reducing the space between the tooth and gum so bacteria can’t easily hide and grow between the two.
- Bone grafts: To repair the fragments of bone lost to the gum disease, fragments of your bone are taken and used to regrow bone in the jaw to provide stability to the teeth.
- Soft tissue grafts: To repair gum tissues that have weakened, grafted tissues are taken from other parts of the mouth, usually the roof and added to the affected area.
- Tissue regeneration: This procedure helps in the stimulation of bone and gum tissue regeneration. Initially, the dentist performs a flap surgery then inserts a mesh-like fabric between the gum tissue and bone which prevents the gums from growing into the area where the bone would have been. This gives the bone time to regrow without any hindrance and support the teeth once again.
How to prevent gum disease?
Maintaining good oral health is key when preventing gum disease. To ensure good oral health, be sure to:
- Brush teeth regularly: Brushing twice daily for 2 minutes is important to remove food debris and ensure you get rid of harmful bacteria from your mouth.
- Flossing: Floss at least once a day to clear out food particles lodged between your teeth and along the gum line.
- Use a mouthwash: Rinse your mouth with a mouthwash which can help dislodge food particles you might have missed during flossing and brushing to help prevent plaque.
- Healthy diet: The food you eat impact your oral health, eating sugary and acidic food put your teeth and gum at risk.
Besides these, consulting a dentist regularly can also help prevent gum disease. You want to seek Ocala dentists with experience and expertise so they can help identify any problems linked to your gum and teeth. They can provide the best preventative measure and treat any problem immediately.