For adults, gum disease is responsible for many lost teeth. Also known as periodontal disease, gum disease is caused by plaque. If not cleaned or removed properly, the plaque and tartar in your mouth hardens. The gums pull away from the teeth in pockets, and those pockets become infected. This fatally affects the supportive tissue around the teeth.
You may have gum disease and not know it, since it’s virtually painless. This is another reason to keep regular visits to your dentist, as we measure the sulcus – a small crevice – between your gums and your teeth. This measurement allows us to detect gum disease. Usually the larger the pocket, the more advanced the gum disease.
Depending on how far the gum disease has progressed, we discuss gum disease in two different stages.
When gums are red and swollen, gingivitis may be present. Gums that bleed easily should be carefully monitored, as gingivitis is the initial phase of gum disease. Regular flossing and brushing can reverse the damage in most patients suffering from gingivitis.
When gingivitis goes untreated, it can develop into periodontitis. During these late stages, the gums show severe damage, as does the bone that supports the teeth. In a healthy mouth, teeth are held in place by gums and bones. When periodontitis sets in, gums grow infected, and teeth can loosen in your mouth. In some patients, loose teeth will fall out, or they will need to be extracted.
Some instances can increase the risk of periodontitis, including smoking or chewing tobacco, pregnancy, diseases that affect all systems like diabetes, malfunctioning fillings, ill-fitting bridges, crooked teeth, some steroids, some cancer therapy drugs, some oral birth control, some epilepsy-controlling drugs, and some calcium channel blockers.
Be aware of the warning signs of gum disease:
- Bleeding gums
- Consistent bad breath
- Bad taste in your mouth
- Swollen, red, or tender gums
- Pus present around your gums and teeth
- Gums separating from teeth, forming pockets
- Separating or loose permanent teeth
- A difference in your bite
- A difference in your partial dentures’ fit
Remember that periodontal disease may go unnoticed. The warning signs aren’t always present, which is why consistent visits to the dentist could save your teeth. Treatment will vary, as the severity of the gum disease will determine the course of action.
To reduce your risks of gum disease, practice good oral hygiene, and pass these practices on to your children. Regular flossing and brushing are essential, and eating a healthy, sensible diet goes a long way. Ensure yourself a lifelong beautiful smile.