Proper oral care is important to not only your teeth, but also your gums. If you don’t take proper care of your oral health, your gums will become infected and inflamed—and can even start to wear away. This process is known as gum disease. Gum disease starts off as a minor issue, but can quickly escalate to a massive danger to the health of your teeth and gums. Below is more information about what gum disease is, what causes it, how to treat it and how to avoid it.
What Causes Gum Disease?
Gum disease is an infection caused by the buildup of tartar, plaque and debris that leads to the formation of bacteria. This bacteria spreads—damaging the gums and eventually the bone tissue. Generally, gum disease is caused by poor oral health on the part of the patient.
What Is Gum Recession?
Gum recession is the process in which gums start to pull away from the teeth, shrinking down the gumline. This process leaves the teeth exposed, and can leave the teeth loose. Eventually, with damage to the gums and bone tissue, the teeth can fall out.
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Stages of Gum Disease
While gum disease is a single disease, there are different stages that your dentist and you will want to look for. These different stages represent the progression of the disease, and how bad it has gotten. Below are the three main stages of periodontal disease, and what to expect at those stages:
The earliest and most treatable stage of gum disease is gingivitis. At this point, the gums are often red, swollen and possibly bleeding. You may also experience bad breath and an odd taste in your mouth. By visiting the dentist, gingivitis is often very easily resolve with a deep cleaning (which will be discussed below). With regular checkups, your dentist should be able to spot gingivitis and treat it as soon as possible.
Once the gum disease has advanced enough, it will enter the stage of periodontitis. At this stage the damage that has been done cannot be reversed. There may be permanent bone loss, as well as receding gums that will need a graft to repair. Other signs will be noticeable as well, such as bleeding gums, pus, bad breath and so on.
Once the gum disease has reached this stage, treatment is extremely difficult. At this point, teeth are loose and may even be falling out. A dentist will do everything possible to save as many teeth as possible, but some of the damage will be completely irreparable. Luckily, it’s easy to seek treatment before this stage, as the symptoms of gum disease are already very noticeable before the disease reaches the point of advanced periodontitis.
Signs of Gum Disease
In order to see if a trip to the dentist is needed to treat potential gum disease, it’s important to know the signs to look out for to see if you have gum disease. While with regular checkups your dentist will be able to diagnose gum disease early on, it’s still important to set an appointment to visit your dentist if you notice any of the signs listed below:
- Redness of the Gums
- Swollen Gums
- Bleeding Gums
- Bad Breath
- Bad Taste in Mouth
- Receding Gum Line
- Loose Teeth
Some of these symptoms are more severe than others, and can be signs of more advanced periodontal disease. Make sure to visit your dentist if you are experiencing these symptoms—especially if your teeth are becoming loose and/or your gums are receding. These symptoms are indicative of more advanced periodontal disease.
There are a few options for the treatment of gum disease—starting with prevention. With proper oral care, gum disease can be completely avoided. It’s also important to visit the dentist every six months for a checkup so your dentist can diagnose gum disease while it is still in the gingivitis stage.
Once your dentist has discovered gum disease, they will schedule a time to perform what is called a deep cleaning (scaling and root planing). During a scaling and root planing procedure, your dentist will use special tools to clear away debris, plaque and tarter at and below the gum line. This will allow the gums to properly heal.
If the damage is more severe, more advanced procedures may be necessary to restore the gums. Bone grafts may be necessary, as well as jawbone surgery. There is also the possibility of gum grafting to repair gums that are damaged and have receded more severely.
It is important to have gum disease treated as soon as possible. The sooner you can undergo treatment (generally just a deep cleaning), the better the chances you have of avoiding permanent damage. Again, make sure to visit the dentist if you are experiencing any of the signs of gum disease that were listed above.
Once a deep cleaning is performed, some time will need to be allotted for numbness caused by anesthetic to wear off. Before then, it is not advised to eat anything. Time may also need to be taken off work, as it’s likely that you will not be able to properly speak.
In order to avoid another trip to the dentist for a deep cleaning, bone grafting or gum grafting, make sure to take proper care of your teeth and gums. This includes brushing, flossing and rinsing every day, twice a day. A regularly scheduled appointment with a dentist every six months for a cleaning and checkup is also a necessity. Do not skip a cleaning and checkup!
You may have gum disease, and that checkup may mean the difference between the gum disease being treated early on, or progressing.