Also known as periodontal disease, gum disease is an infection and inflammation of the gum tissue and bone surrounding and supporting your teeth. Gum disease is one of the most causes of tooth loss, affecting close to 48 percent of adults aged 30 and older in the United States. Here’s everything you need to know about gum disease, its signs and symptoms, and how to treat and prevent it.
Signs of Gum Disease
You may have gum disease if you experience the following warning signs:
- Bleeding gums
- Red or swollen gums
- Receding gums (the gum line shrinks away from the tooth, making teeth look longer)
- Bad breath
- A metallic taste in the mouth
- Pus between the teeth and gums
- Extra spaces between the teeth and gums
- Tenderness when biting
- Loose teeth, or teeth that have moved
- Changes in the fit of partial dentures
How Do You Get Gum Disease?
Gum disease is usually caused by poor oral hygiene, such as infrequent brushing or flossing and irregular dental exams and cleanings. When food debris mixes with saliva and bacteria, it forms dental plaque that sticks to the surfaces of teeth. If plaque isn’t removed, it hardens into tartar, a hard, yellow, or brown substance that makes it harder to remove plaque. Dental plaque and tartar are filled with harmful bacteria; if they aren’t removed from your teeth, they will begin to irritate the gums, leading to inflammation of the gums and causing gingivitis (an early form of gum disease).
As the plaque spreads below the gum line, the bone and gums get inflamed or infected, and the gums will start to recede away from the teeth and form deep gum pockets, which readily collect more plaque and bacteria. Bone and connective tissues that hold the tooth start to break down, and your teeth become loose and fall out. This is called periodontitis and is the advanced stage of gum disease.
Apart from poor oral hygiene, other risk factors that can increase plaque formation or the risk of gum disease include:
- Genetics –Those whose parent or parents have had gingivitis have a higher risk of developing it too
- Hormones: Hormonal changes during pregnancy can make your gums more vulnerable to inflammation and bleeding
- Certain health conditions such as cancer and diabetes are linked to a higher risk of gum disease
- Medications that reduce saliva production can impact your oral health, increasing the risk of gum inflammation
- Smoking – regular smokers are more likely to develop gum disease
- Age – the risk of gum disease increases with age
How to Treat Gum Disease
Periodontal cleaning is a prescribed treatment to combat periodontal disease. It involves scaling and debridement to clean the surfaces of the teeth above the gum line and in the pockets. During a periodontal cleaning, the hygienist will remove tartar buildup from in between your teeth and gums down the entire length of each tooth, stopping where the gum, root, and bone meet.
The hygienist will carefully monitor the depth of each pocket in your gums and irrigate these pockets with antiseptic medications if inflammation or infection is present. The last step is polishing to smooth rough areas on the teeth, which helps prevent plaque buildup and treating the teeth with fluoride.
How to Prevent Gum Disease
When it comes to gum disease, prevention is best. If you adhere to a daily brushing and flossing routine to maintain good oral hygiene, you can remove the plaque on your teeth before it hardens and turns to tartar. But once tartar forms, it needs to be professionally scraped off by a dental professional.
You also need to maintain regular dental visits every six months for an exam and professional cleaning. During your visit, we will examine your teeth and gums for signs of gum disease and a dental hygienist will clean your teeth with special instruments to remove plaque and tartar.
Schedule Your Appointment Today!
Your gum health plays a significant role in your oral health and shouldn’t be taken for granted. If you’re in Greenville, SC, and are concerned about your gum health, reach out and make an appointment today. Dr. Gould will thoroughly examine your gums, teeth, and jaw to determine if you have periodontal disease and develop a treatment plan to get you back to optimal gum health.