Your gums are the foundation for a healthy mouth and it’s important to be aware of the signs of gum disease so you can act before the problems become irreversible.
Gum disease is the most common causes of tooth loss in adults, spoiling more smiles than cavities and accidents combined. However, the earlier it’s caught the easier it is to treat. Because of this difficulty, it’s vital to visit your dentist as soon as you spot any signs of trouble. The earlier you take action, the quicker you can return your gums to full health.
Risk Factors for Gum Disease
The following are risk factors that you may be able to control to reduce your chance of developing gingivitis or progressing to periodontitis.
- Poor Oral Hygiene: Be sure to floss and brush your teeth, gums, and tongue daily, and make regular visits to your dentist.
- Smoking and Tobacco Use: It’s long been established that smoking and tobacco use (cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco) increase the risk of cancer, lung disease, heart disease, and other serious health problems, but did you know they are also recognized risk factors for gum disease? Not only does tobacco use increase the occurrence of gum disease, it can also hinder the healing process by decreasing your ability to fight infection in your gums.
- Poor Nutrition:A diet lacking in vitamins and minerals makes it more difficult for your immune system to fight infection. Too many sugary foods and carbohydrates increase the production of plaque, which is the underlying cause of gum disease.
- Family History:You have a higher likelihood of developing gum disease if it runs in your family. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, up to 30% of the population may be genetically predisposed to gum disease. If your close family members have gum disease, you should be extremely diligent in your home care and dental visits.
- Hormonal Changes:Women experience hormonal fluctuations during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, which can affect tissues in the body, including gums. Increased sensitivity in the gums can create a higher susceptibility to gum disease. Pay special attention to daily oral care and schedule regular visits to the dentist.
- Stress:No matter what the cause (work, finances, depression, etc.), living in a state of stress can make it difficult for the body to fight off infection, including gingivitis and periodontitis. Stress is also a contributing factor to teeth grinding and clenching, which can accelerate the rate of tissue damage with gum disease.
- Certain Medications:Some drugs — including certain types of anti-depressants, heart medications, anticonvulsants, steroids, chemotherapy, oral contraceptives, and other medications — can affect your oral health. Drugs that lessen the flow of saliva can leave your teeth less protected than normal, and drugs that cause abnormal tissue growth can have an adverse effect on your gums. Make sure your dentist is aware of any medications you are taking.
- Systemic Illnesses:Any illness that interferes with the immune system’s ability to fight infection — such as diabetes, leukemia, or AIDS — can leave you more susceptible to gum disease. Additionally, uncontrolled diabetes can increase your risk for gum disease, and gum disease may decrease your ability to control your diabetes. Take special care to brush and floss daily and make regular visits to the dentist.
How do I Know if I Have Gum Disease?
Gum disease can occur at any age, but it is most common among adults. If detected in its early stages, gum disease can be improved so see your dentist if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Gums that are red, puffy or swollen, or tender
- Gums that bleed during brushing or flossing
- Teeth that look longer because your gums have receded
- Gums that have separated, or pulled away, from your teeth, creating a pocket
- Changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- Pus coming from between your teeth and gums
- Constant bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth
Gum disease stages
When your body senses threats like infections, lacerations, or foreign bodies, it rushes support to the area. The inflammatory response in healthy individuals kills off bacteria and helps to speed healing. Unfortunately, when it comes to your oral tissues, things can be a little more complicated.
If you have teeth riddled with plaque and tartar accumulations, your teeth and gums are teeming with bacteria, making it impossible for the body to resolve the problem on its own. Instead of actively attacking bacteria, the body takes a new approach—it starts to protect itself by backing away from the problem. If the early stages of gum disease are left untreated, the gums will recede away from the teeth, triggering a cascade of other dental issues. When the gums start to recede, they create pockets between the teeth and the gum tissue, where more plaque and bacteria can accumulate. Over time, simple gum disease can morph into advanced periodontal disease, where infection, tooth loss, and serious systemic health problems are very real threats.
Fortunately, dentists offers treatment for any stage of periodontal disease to help your body to heal. Here are the stages of periodontal disease, the problems each stage can cause, and how dentists will treat your condition.
STAGE 1: GINGIVITIS
One of the reasons gingivitis is so dangerous is because it is very easy to overlook. Patients with gingivitis may have bad breath and gums that bleed when they are flossed. When patients present with gingivitis, dentists will check the extent of the condition by using a tool called a periodontal probe. This probe is a very small measuring stick that is inserted between the gum tissue and the teeth to check the depth of the periodontal pockets. Healthy teeth have a normal pocket depth of between 1 and 2 millimeters. If you have gingivitis, your pockets may be 2-4 millimeters deep, signaling a problem.
Fortunately, gingivitis is highly treatable. The most effective form of treatment at this stage is good oral hygiene on the patient’s part. You’ll be asked to evaluate and improve your oral hygiene regimen, including proper brushing, flossing, rinsing, and coming in for regular checkups. dentists might also recommend a deeper dental cleaning than is normally given during semi-annual visits to remove plaque and tartar accumulations.
STAGE 2: EARLY PERIODONTITIS
If left untreated, simple gingivitis can advance into early periodontal disease. Early periodontitis is marked by inflamed gum tissue that has surrounded the teeth, resulting in early bone loss. Patients with early periodontal disease typically have a gingival pocket depth of between 4-5 millimeters. If you have early periodontal disease, your gums will bleed more readily during flossing and professional cleanings, and your gum tissue will start to recede, creating an aged look.
Treatment for early periodontitis includes non-surgical treatment methods, such as in-depth cleanings. A treatment called scaling and root planing can be used to remove layers of built-up tartar and smooth out the surfaces of the teeth. Dentists can also clean the surfaces of the teeth that are underneath the gingival pockets, making it possible for the gums to reattach. At this stage, patients are encouraged to overhaul their oral hygiene regimen to keep periodontal disease from progressing. Dentists might also recommend coming in more frequently for thorough cleanings, or scheduling follow-up visits to track your progress.
STAGE 3: MODERATE PERIODONTITIS
If patients continue to ignore their oral health, early periodontitis can morph into moderate periodontitis, where moderate levels of bone loss can occur. Infections in the area can create bleeding, pus development, and pain around the teeth. Gum recession can make the teeth sensitive and uncomfortable. As the gums pull away from the teeth, the teeth lose their natural support system and they can become loose. Patients with moderate periodontitis have gingival pocket depths of between 6 and 7 millimeters. At this stage, oral infections can start leeching into your bloodstream and start causing an inflammatory response throughout your body.
To treat moderate periodontitis, Dentists need to clean and sanitize the area inside of the gingival pockets. To do this effectively and to reduce bleeding, he uses a procedure called LANAP, or Laser Assisted New Attachment Procedure. During LANAP, a laser tool fitted with a small probe will be inserted into the gingival pocket and moved around the teeth. The probe emits a gentle, yet highly effective wavelength of concentrated light to simultaneously eradicate diseased tissue and sanitize the area. LANAP also helps the pocket to create a protective blood clot, keeping new bacteria from invading.
STAGE 4: ADVANCED PERIODONTITIS
By the time advanced periodontitis sets in, the gums are severely infected and prone to oozing. The gingival pockets around the teeth are deeper than 7 millimeters, which is over a quarter of an inch. Patients with advanced periodontitis can struggle with severe pain while chewing, offensive bad breath, and a very foul taste in the mouth due to the infection. Because the gums have regressed so significantly, patients can lose teeth at this stage, and their existing teeth can shift to fill the voids. Advanced periodontitis isn’t just a dental issue. It has also been tied to other serious health concerns, including heart disease, diabetes, and even some forms of cancer.
Urgent care is needed to halt the progress of periodontal disease and return the patient to normal health. dentists will start by cleaning the teeth and performing LANAP inside the gingival pockets to reduce bacterial levels and inflammation. Some patients are prescribed an antibiotic to help to control the infection throughout the stages of periodontal treatment. LANAP is beneficial because it encourages the regrowth of bone tissue, ligaments, and gum tissue, helping the area to heal. To repair existing damage, dentists might also recommend a ridge augmentation, bone grafts, or dental implants.
Gum Disease Prevention
The good news about gum disease is the simplicity of preventive care for most people. The best way to avoid gum disease is to follow the same measures you take to avoid cavities: brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice daily, floss every day, maintain a healthy diet, avoid tobacco use, and have your teeth professionally cleaned on a regular schedule.
Your dentist may recommend twice-a-year or more frequent checkups, depending on the state of your oral health. Even with daily home care, plaque can build up and harden into a tough substance called tartar. In this state, only a dental professional can remove it. In the early stage of gingivitis, it’s possible to reverse or even eliminate the disease by increasing the level of oral care. But it’s important to catch the disease as early as possible.
Regular dental checkups are vital, as is an awareness of the warning signs of gum disease. If gingivitis progresses to periodontitis, serious problems including tooth loss can occur.