Gum disease is the general term used to describe periodontal disease, which occurs when bacteria grows rapidly and destroys the tissue that surrounds and supports the teeth, causing them to eventually fall out.
The process starts with plaque that builds on your teeth regularly. When the plaque is not removed through brushing, it creates what is known as tartar, which is simply plaque that has hardened to your teeth. It lingers and grows around the gum line, which causes gum disease.
Individuals of any age are susceptible to developing gum disease, and if left untreated, the bones that support the teeth can be damaged by the gum disease. Eventually the bone will dissolve away from the teeth, causing teeth to fall out.
There are several stages to gum disease, which are determined based on the severity of the progression of the disease. Gingivitis is a mild stage, which can be reversed, as it only affects the gums. If gingivitis is left untreated, it can turn into periodontitis, which affects the gums, the bones supporting the teeth, causes the teeth to fall out, and cannot be reversed.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF GUM DISEASE?
Unfortunately, gum disease can progress without any pain or obvious signs. You may not even know you have gum disease until you attend a visit to the dentist, wherein you could be in late stages and at the risk of losing your teeth. Early detection is important for reversing the disease, and can only be found through regular dental cleanings and exams.
There are a few signs, however, that could mean you have gum disease. If you notice any of the following symptoms, it is imperative that you schedule a visit with your dentist:
- Bleeding gums during teeth brushing
- Swollen, tender, or red gums
- Receding gum line
- Chronic bad breath
- Pus in between gums and teeth
- Loose adult teeth
- A change in how your teeth fit together when you bite down
- A change in the way your partial dentures fit
WHAT CAUSES GUM DISEASE?
Gum disease is caused by excessive growth of bacteria, known as plaque. In addition, there are some habits and health factors that can negatively impact your gums, causing gum disease. This includes:
- Smoking or chewing tobacco
- Diabetes and other systemic diseases
- Medications, including steroids, anti-epilepsy drugs, oral contraceptives, and cancer therapy medications
- Improperly fitting bridges
- Crooked teeth
- Defective fillings
- Grinding or clenching your teeth
- Improper nutrition
Gum disease does not heal itself, and cannot be improved by at-home dental hygiene. A professional cleaning is the only way to ensure that plaque is removed from deep within the gum line. Even with a professional cleaning to remove what is currently there, you are still able to redevelop the gum disease. It is important to schedule regular dentist appointments – every six months – to prevent the gum disease from spreading.