Gum disease: causes, symptoms, and treatments
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a frequent oral condition that affects the soft tissues surrounding and holding your teeth. It is a non-contagious disease that can affect any gender, age, or race. Even though it is a preventable disease, it is still a global health concern that can affect your oral and general health.
What is gum disease?
Usually, your teeth are inserted into your jawbones through a specialized tissue called periodontal fibers. These fibers provide the elasticity and resilience that your teeth need to withstand and cushion the massive bite forces every day. The periodontal fibers compile a complex and vital structure to support your teeth and protect them from exterior damage and treads. Thereby, the inner fibers are meant to serve as pillars for your teeth, while the exterior ones serve as protection. Gum disease consists in the affection of this complex structure, whether it be the supportive or protective gums. In a nutshell, gums get irritated, infected, and swelling.
What are the causes of gum disease?
Gum disease can occur as the result of multiple reasons. Among them, we can find:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Hormonal changes during pregnancy, puberty, or hormonal conditions
- Smoking or consuming tobacco in any presentation
- Prescription drugs such as anticonvulsants, strong antibiotics, and antihypertensives
- Some systemic conditions such as diabetes and autoimmune inflammatory diseases
- Faulty or defective dental restorations
- Teeth overcrowding or misalignment problems
However, each case is unique, and one person can have multiple factors simultaneously. Moreover, studies have shown that poor oral care is the principal reason for gum disease, followed by hormonal changes. When dental plaque and tartar accumulate over teeth, it irritates the soft tissue due to acidic bacterial contamination. Furthermore, these irritants can get even under the gums, causing more damage and getting the gums to get sored and retract in response, leaving the teeth weak and exposed.
On the other hand, tobacco is a powerful buccal irritant that prevents oral healing and repair. Also, it is a hurtful substance that affects all the tissues in your mouth deeply. Thereby, this disease appears thanks to inflammation or irritants that alter the periodontal fibers’ natural structure.
What are the types of gum disease?
Gum disease has multiple classifications. However, there are two main types of periodontal disease: gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is the affection of the exterior gum that protects your teeth without touching the supporting tissue beneath them. Periodontitis, however, occurs when the infections get deeper, affecting the bone underneath your teeth. Moreover, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis when the problem persists in time.
What are the symptoms of gum disease?
The signs and symptoms of gum disease depend on the disease type and particular case. Usually, gingivitis is characterized by the following symptoms:
- Bloody and swelling gums that can bleed during brushing or spontaneously
- Soft tissue color changes into intense red or violet
- Tender gums
In contrast, periodontitis can induce the following problems:
- Mobile and lose teeth
- Unresponsive bad breath
- Pain and discomfort during eating, brushing, o chewing
- Sensitive spontaneous teeth feeling
- Gum recessions
Most times, these symptoms appear slowly as the disease progress. However, you should visit your dentist if you notice any of these signs, especially if they appear suddenly.
How is gum disease diagnosed?
A professional examination is essential to diagnose periodontal disease. To determine the extent of the disease, your dentist will need to:
- Perform a complete oral examination, looking for tartar, dental plaque, and common signs of gum irritation like bleeding and tenderness.
- Check your medical history and family background to find factors that could contribute to the disease’s appearance. Smoking and other illnesses are the main goals in this part.
- Measure the depth of your gums using a specialized instrument called a dental probe. This instrument is a small rule that allows your dentist to determine how healthy your gums are.
- Take complementary exams such as dental x-rays to find out the extent and severity.
Probing teeth is a painless and essential process, crucial to determine the severity, extent, and complexity of the case. By measuring the pockets of your gum, your dentist can locate and assign the possible treatment alternatives.
What is the treatment of gum disease?
The treatment can vary depending on the previous factors and the type of presentation. Generally, gingivitis is easily preventable with a regular professional clean-up that eliminates all the tartar and irritants in the teeth and gums. This procedure is called scaling and, naturally, it must be followed by constant and correct dental care at home. However, then the disease has reached the bone, your dentist will need to perform other procedures such as:
In this process, the specialist soothes the root surfaces, preventing more plaque and tartar formation. With bacteria and the infection controlled, the tissues can start healing. Your dentist or periodontist can perform most procedures in the office. The time needed to perform the procedures, your degree of discomfort, and time needed to heal vary from patient to patient. Other factors are the type and extent of the procedure and your overall health. Local anesthesia to numb the treatment area may be given before some treatments. If necessary, a medication may be given to help you relax.
Some cases can require antibiotics to control the infection and bacteria. These medications can be topically applied or orally taken to fight the bacteria causing the disease.
When the disease advance, periodontitis can require more invasive treatment alternatives like flap surgery. This surgical method allows the clinician to access the desire location and remove the irritants without damaging the protective layer. Currently, some of these alternatives include surgery procedures that allow you to regain the lost tissue. Something that was impossible decades ago. Nowadays, specialists have procedures such as:
- Soft tissue grafts: replacing lost periodontal tissue with healthy tissue from other parts of your mouth. It is highly useful in gum recession to cover exposed roots and cosmetic problems.
- Bone grafting: it is used to replace the lost bone beneath your teeth using small bone fragments. This graft can be your own bone from other locations, synthetic, or from a donor.
- Guided tissue regeneration: here, your dentist uses a protective layer between your teeth and other tissues to improve healing and regeneration.
How can I prevent it?
The easiest way to prevent gum disease is by having excellent oral health and dental care at home. Although gum disease can produce multiple difficulties, it is preventable with the right measures.
Finally, we recommend:
- Visit your dentist twice a year or as often as your dentist suggest it
- Brush your teeth twice a day and use dental floss
- Avoid tobacco
- Get a soft toothbrush
- Use the mouthwash that your specialist recommends
- Consult your physician if you are taking medications or have systemic conditions that can compromise your gums
Let’s get started. Request An Appointment for Gum Disease Treatment
Dr. Rahaf Suede, DDS at Great Lakes Smiles Dental is trusted by many patients in Plymouth and surrounding areas for comprehensive dental care. She is recognized for her high quality dental treatment and patient satisfaction. Contact her now for an appointment Call (734) 459-9360Schedule an appointment