In terms of oral health, gum disease – also known as periodontal disease – is one of the most common afflictions of your teeth and gums. While gum disease can cause anything form simple gum irritation to severe damage to the bone and tissue surrounding the teeth, it is important to know what causes it and how to prevent it.
What causes periodontal disease?
Bacteria and plaque are the most common causes of periodontal disease. Bacteria, when combined with the natural mucus of the mouth, forms a sticky, colorless “plaque” which sits on the surface of teeth and eventually eats away at the enamel. If this plaque is not removed by proper brushing techniques or professionally by a dentist, it can lead to tartar buildup and gingivitis. Gingivitis causes the gums to become inflamed and easily irritated by brushing and flossing. Gingivitis can be easily reversed and will not affect the bones of the teeth.
When does periodontitis become dangerous?
If left untreated, gingivitis and plaque buildup will advance to periodontal disease. Once it sets in, the pockets around the teeth become infected. Because our body’s natural immune system response is to attack the infection, bones in the mouth may be broken down in the process, which then loosens teeth and may require them to be removed.
What are the major risk factors for gum disease?
Smoking, hormonal changes, diabetes, changes in medications or genetics can all play a role in weakened gums and susceptibility to oral disease. Be wary of over the counter and prescription medications as both can have an effect on the strength and growth patterns of gum tissue. Smoking, on the other hand, not only creates weak gum tissue but can also prevent treatment from working properly.
How will I know if I have an infection in my gums?
Some of the major symptoms of gum disease are inflamed gums, trouble chewing, bleeding when eating, brushing or flossing, swollen gums and sensitive teeth.
How is periodontal disease treated?
In most cases, a hygienist or dentist performs deep cleaning and rinsing. However, in serious cases, surgery such as flap surgery and bone and tissue grafts may need to be performed to repair lost bone or weakened tooth pockets. In addition to cleaning and surgical treatments, a dentist may prescribe medications to control the infection and reduce the need for surgery.
If you suspect that you may be suffering from early stage gingivitis or gum disease, contact your dentist to schedule an appointment today. In advanced cases, you may be referred to an oral surgeon like Dr. Jessen.