Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is caused by a build-up of plaque and bacteria between the teeth and gums. When left untreated, the gums become infected and if gum disease progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult and painful to treat. Advanced cases of gum disease may also lead to tooth loss.
Symptoms of Gum Disease
Depending on the progression of the disease, symptoms of gum disease may include the following:
- Swollen and sore gums
- Red or inflamed gums
- Gums that bleed easily
- Gums that recede from the teeth
- Loose teeth
- Chronic bad breath
- Pain when chewing
Causes and Stages of Gum Disease
Gum disease is often caused by a buildup of plaque, a film composed of bacteria that coats the teeth after eating. Plaque that is not removed by the flossing and brushing of teeth can eventually irritate the gums. Left untreated, gum disease can develop in the following two stages:
Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease. At this stage the gums may be swollen, red and inflamed and may bleed easily. Gingivitis can usually be easily treated by a thorough cleaning by a dentist to remove plaque, and proper follow-up care. Patients that maintain proper oral hygiene at home can keep gums healthy and reduce bacteria build-up.
If left untreated, gingivitis transitions into periodontitis which is a more serious stage of gum disease. At this stage, the gums are extremely inflamed and start to pull away from the teeth. Teeth may begin to loosen due to bones and ligaments breaking down.
Gum Disease Treatments
Gum disease is caused by a bacterial infection. Previously, surgical treatment was the only option to prevent gum disease. With recent developments in the treatment of gum disease, non-surgical methods are available to stop or slow down decay so that patients can keep their natural teeth. Non-surgical treatment focuses on eliminating the bacteria, healing any damage present, and strengthening the immune system.
The key to preventing gum disease is to keep the teeth free of plaque and tartar by regularly practicing the following:
- Using mouthwash
- Deep cleaning under the gums
- Visiting the dentist regularly
Patients are usually given at-home care instructions to supplement office treatment. For some patients with advanced cases of gum disease, the following treatment may be required:
- Bone grafts
- Gum surgery
After treatment, recurrence of gum disease may be prevented with a regular routine of brushing and flossing and visits to the dentist.
Oral - Systemic Connection
Current medical research has confirmed what periodontists have suspected for many years. A strong connection exists between periodontal disease and inflammatory systemic diseases, such as: Rheumatoid Arthritis, Cardiovascular disease, Diabetes Mellitus, Stroke, etc. Patients who suffer from these chronic inflammatory diseases are at a higher risk for periodontal disease and the periodontal disease is more destructive. If we are able to diagnose the disease at an early stage, we can then control the disease process and help better control the systemic disease.
Periodontal diseases has also been associated with low birth weight babies, premature births, and preeclampsia in mothers. If the periodontal health of the pregnant mother is controlled and stable, the risk factors of a high risk pregnancy decreases significantly.