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What is the Cause of Gum Disease?
Gum disease – also called periodontal disease – occurs when your gum tissues become infected. And infection – if not treated – can lead to tooth loss. So, how do your gums become infected in the first place?
We all have natural bacteria in our mouths. But when this bacteria feeds on the sugars and starches we consume, the bacteria becomes acidic and develops into a sticky film called plaque. If you don’t remove the plaque with daily brushing and flossing, the bacteria can harden and cause an infection of your gum tissues. If gum disease isn’t treated early, it can lead to an advanced stage of periodontal disease, known as periodontitis.
But aside from poor oral habits, there are other factors that can increase your risk for gum disease:
- Hormonal changes
- Medications that make your mouth dry
- Immuno-suppressive diseases
- Other systemic diseases that interfere with inflammatory response
- Poor nutrition
What is Gingivitis?
Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease. Your gingiva – the portion of your gums that surround the base of your teeth – becomes red, tender and swollen, and you might see blood when you brush or floss. Bad breath is also a sign that you may have gingivitis.
It’s typically poor hygiene that causes gingivitis. If you improve your daily habits, gingivitis can be reversed. However, if gingivitis is not caught early, it will likely advance to a more serious stage of gum disease called periodontitis.
What are the Symptoms of Advanced Gum Disease?
Many of the signs are similar to what you’ll find with gingivitis. But more serious symptoms include:
- Dusky red or purple gums
- Gums that bleed easily
- Puffiness in the gum area
- Spitting out blood during brushing
- Pus between teeth and gums
- Loose teeth
- Painful chewing
- Gums that pull away from your teeth
- Developing spaces between teeth
- A change in your bite
How is Gum Disease Treated?
Mild Gum Disease
There are a few options for treating mild gum disease before it progresses to periodontitis.
A patient with mild gum disease (gingivitis) can possibly be treated with antibiotic or antimicrobial medication. However, since these types of medications can also destroy good bacteria, your dentist will want to limit the amount of time you use them.
Scaling and Root Planing
When medication doesn’t heal the infection, your dentist may suggest a deep cleaning, known as scaling and root planing. These are two non-surgical treatments that use special instruments to remove the plaque and tartar (hardened plaque) that is the cause of the infection.
During scaling, the dentist will remove plaque and tartar deposits on the teeth and up to the gum line. Root planing is a way to go beneath the gum to clean and smooth the root. When the root is smoothed, inflammation decreases and gums are better able to adhere to the teeth.
During scaling and root planing, patients are given a local anesthetic to make them more comfortable during the procedures.
A bite problem could impact the progression of periodontal disease, so a dentist can correct the bite with a procedure called an occlusal adjustment. The dentist makes a mold of your teeth to find the problem areas and then rehapes them with drilling and filling. Since the bite issue may be a result of teeth grinding, your dentist may recommend a night guard to prevent that behavior.
Advanced Gum Disease (Periodontitis)
By the time a patient has developed periodontitis, surgery is likely required to reduce the depth of gum pockets where gums have pulled away from the teeth. It may also be necessary to regenerate gum tissue using gum material from other areas of the mouth.
Reducing Gum Pocket Depth
In order for gums to support the teeth and to prevent infection and bone loss, they should fit snugly against the teeth. When gums begin to move away from the teeth, they form a pocket that becomes increasingly deeper the further they move away. Deep gum pockets means lack of a support structure and room for bacteria to grow.
To reduce pocket depth, the gums are thoroughly cleaned and then sutured to the teeth.
Regenerating Gum Tissue
If a cleaning and suturing cannot repair the gums, new material must be regenerated by transferring it from other areas of the mouth.
The gum tissue removed from another area of the mouth is also placed with a membrane that will help to promote the tissue generation. Then the area is closed off with suturing.
How Can I Prevent Gum Disease?
First, understand your risk factors. Some risks can be reduced, such as quitting smoking or changing your diet. But if you have medical conditions that make you a more likely candidate for periodontal disease, you’ll need to be vigilant about caring for your teeth and gums.
Daily oral care should include:
- Brushing your teeth as soon as possible after a meal to prevent plaque buildup. And don’t neglect to brush your teeth before bed. Considerable plaque buildup can occur overnight.
- Flossing at least once per day (preferably two) can reach food particles that get stuck between teeth and that a toothbrush often can’t reach.
- Using a dental rinse to loosen food particles that were missed after brushing and flossing.
Along with daily care, be sure to visit your dentist every six months. Your dentist will be able to assess the condition of your teeth and gums and recommend treatments that will either prevent gingivitis or treat gum disease that’s starting to progress.
Gum disease can affect more than just your oral health. It can also lead to other systemic health problems. If you haven’t seen your dentist in a while, make an appointment at Osseo Family Dental and take proactive steps against the development of gum disease.