What is gum disease?

Gingivitis

The longer plaque and tartar are on teeth, the more harmful they become. The bacteria cause inflammation of the gums that is called “gingivitis.” In gingivitis, the gums become red, swollen and can bleed easily. Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease that can usually be reversed with daily brushing and flossing, and regular cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist. This form of gum disease does not include any loss of bone and tissue that hold teeth in place.

Periodontitis

When gingivitis is not treated, it can advance to “periodontitis” (which means “inflammation around the tooth”). In periodontitis, gums pull away from the teeth and form spaces (called “pockets”) that become infected. The body’s immune system fights the bacteria as the plaque spreads and grows below the gum line. Bacterial toxins and the body’s natural response to infection start to break down the bone and connective tissue that hold teeth in place. If not treated, the bones, gums, and tissue that support the teeth are destroyed. The teeth may eventually become loose and have to be removed.

Risk Factors

  • Smoking. Need another reason to quit smoking? Smoking is one of the most significant risk factors associated with the development of gum disease. Additionally, smoking can lower the chances for successful treatment
  • Diabetes. People with diabetes are at higher risk for developing infections, including gum disease.
  • Hormonal changes in girls/women. These changes can make gums more sensitive and make it easier for gingivitis to develop.
  • Medications. There are hundreds of prescription and over the counter medications that can reduce the flow of saliva. Saliva has a protective effect on the mouth, and without enough saliva, the mouth is vulnerable to infections such as gum disease. Some medicines can cause abnormal overgrowth of the gum tissue; this can also make it difficult to keep teeth and gums clean. Other illnesses. Diseases like cancer or AIDS and their treatments can also negatively affect the health of gums.
  • Genetic susceptibility. Some people are more prone to severe gum disease than others.

How do I know if I have gum disease?

Symptoms of gum disease include:

  • Bad breath that won’t go away
  • Red or swollen gums
  • Tender or bleeding gums
  • Painful chewing
  • Loose teeth
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Receding gums or longer looking teeth

Any of these symptoms may be a sign of a serious problem, and should be checked by a dentist.  Contact us today to book an appointment.