What is Gum Disease
Gum Disease is an inflammation of the gums that, if severe, can lead to the loss of the tissues that hold your teeth in place. Sometimes called periodontal disease, the infection in its most serious form can destroy the jawbone, damage gums, and cause tooth loss.
What Causes Gum Disease
Bacterial growth in the mouth at the gum line and around the tooth causes inflammation. This inflammation is the hallmark of gum disease. The bacterial growth occurs due to poor oral hygiene, including failure to brush, floss, and regular dental checkups. Here’s how poor oral hygiene leads to gum disease.
If you don’t brush your teeth daily, plaque can build up on your teeth. Plaque forms when the sugars and starches in your food combine with the bacteria normally found in your mouth. It is a sticky film that clings to your teeth, that without brushing every day, can build up.
When plaque builds up, it turns into tartar. Tartar is plaque that has hardened on your teeth. Sometimes called calculus, tartar traps other bacteria, which irritates the gumline. Tartar is significantly more difficult to remove than plaque and may require professional cleaning.
The longer tartar and plaque remain on the teeth, the more bacteria causing inflammation sit at and around your gum line. This inflammation causes tenderness, swelling, redness, and even bleeding, which is known as gum disease.
In addition to poor oral hygiene, factors that cause gum disease (periodontitis) include genetics, tobacco use, poor dental care. Some systemic diseases, medications, trauma, poor bite, and malnutrition can also contribute to periodontitis.
Gum Disease Symptoms
Symptoms of Gum Disease include redness or tenderness of the gums and bleeding when brushing. In its more advanced stages, people with gum disease will experience bone loss under their teeth, loose teeth, and even ulcers in their mouth.
What are the Stages of Gum Disease?
There are four stages of gum disease:
Stage One is Gingivitis
Gingivitis is characterized by redness, irritation, and sometimes swelling of the gingiva, which are the tissues surrounding the base of the teeth of both the lower and upper jaw. Another word for gingiva is gums.
Stage Two is Early Periodontitis
In addition to gum inflammation, early periodontitis includes slight bone loss in the jaw that supports the teeth.
Stage Three is Moderate Periodontitis
There is more bone and gum damage in stage three gum disease. At this stage, loosening of the teeth may occur.
Stage Four is Advanced Periodontitis
Necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis is the most severe stage of periodontitis. Sometimes called trench mouth, it can cause infection, ulcerations, and painful bleeding gums. In addition, there is severe pain when biting or chewing and significant bone loss, which causes loose teeth.
Gum Disease Treatment
The best treatment is preventative care of the gingiva to avoid gum disease. The good news is that early-stage gum disease is reversible with proper and consistent oral hygiene. If you are experiencing stage 1 Gum Disease, brushing and flossing daily will help reverse early-stage gum disease. In addition, seeing your dentists regularly (every six months is recommended) for a professional cleaning will ensure that all tartar and plaque are removed from your teeth and help keep your mouth healthy.
Please note, If gingivitis goes untreated, it can lead to more advanced gum disease with health implications that extend beyond the mouth. Some studies suggest that the bacteria responsible for gum disease can enter the bloodstream through your mouth tissue and possibly affect your lungs, heart, and other parts of your body. These associated systemic diseases include artery disease, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, and respiratory disease.
While gingivitis may be treated, the effects of advanced gum disease in the mouth are typically not reversible. These concerns of bone loss, loose teeth, and pain are chronic conditions that should be addressed with the help of a dental professional. If your regular dentist determines that your gum disease has advanced beyond the first stage, you will be referred to a periodontist for more advanced treatment options.
One of the treatment options your periodontitis might recommend is a gum graft. A gum graft is when a periodontist takes tissue and builds back the effects of gum remission. This is to stabilize the gingiva and protects against tooth loss.
If you suspect that your gum disease has advanced from simple gingivitis, or if your regular dentist has informed you that you are at risk of bone loss, loose teeth, or receding gums, there is hope. Periodontist Dr. Jason Augustine has built a 20+ year career diagnosing and treating patients with gum disease employing a wide range of laser-assisted, non-surgical, and surgical treatments to manage gum disease successfully.
Remember, the disease has no cure, but through a solid commitment to treatment and care, the disease can be halted and managed for a very long time. The sooner you seek care, the more options exist, and the more tooth retention and better overall health can be achieved.