What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease (also called periodontal disease) is an infection of the tissues (gums) that support your teeth. Periodontal disease is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. Because gum disease is usually painless, you may not know you have periodontal disease. At each regular dental health checkup, we will measure the depth of the shallow v-shaped crevice (called a sulcus) between your tooth and gums to see how healthy your gums are.
Gum disease is caused by plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth. These bacteria create toxins that can damage the gums and cause periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease can attack just below the gum line in the sulcus, where they cause the attachment of the tooth and supporting tissues to break down. As the tissues are damaged, pockets develop between your teeth and gums; generally, the more severe the gum disease, the greater the depth of the pocket.
Periodontal disease is classified according to the severity of the disease. The two major stages are gingivitis and periodontitis.
In the early stage of gum disease, called gingivitis, the gums become red, swollen and bleed easily. At this stage, the disease is still reversible and can usually be eliminated by gum disease treatment in the family dentistry office and daily brushing and flossing.
In the more advanced stages of gum disease, called periodontitis, the gums and bone that support the teeth become damaged. Whereas healthy gums and bone anchor teeth firmly in place, infected gums can cause teeth to become loose, fall out, or have to be removed. Gum disease treatment in the early stages is crucial to avoiding these negative effects of gum disease.
Some factors increase the risk of developing gum disease:
- Tobacco smoking or chewing
- System-wide diseases such as diabetes
- Some types of medication such as steroids, some types of anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, some calcium channel blockers, and oral contraceptives
- Dental bridges that no longer fit properly
- Crooked teeth
- Fillings that have become defective
If you notice any of the following signs of gum disease, let us know immediately:
- Gums that bleed easily
- Red, swollen, tender gums
- Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
- Persistent bad breath or bad taste
- Pus between your teeth and gums
- Permanent teeth that are loose or separating
- Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- Any change in the fit of partial dentures
It is possible to have gum disease and have no warning signs.
That is one reason why regular dental checkups and periodontal disease examinations are very important. Gum disease treatment methods depend on the type of disease and how far the condition has progressed.
Good oral hygiene at home is an essential first step for gum disease treatment. It helps keep periodontal disease from becoming more serious or recurring. You don’t have to lose teeth to gum disease. Brush regularly, clean between your teeth, eat a balanced diet, and schedule regular cosmetic dental visits for a lifetime of healthy smiles.