What is gum disease?

Periodontal disease, commonly known as gum disease, occurs when the gums surrounding the teeth become infected. This condition is frequently a cause of tooth loss in adults. When the infection develops, there may not be an indication that there is a problem because it usually does not cause pain or discomfort. When you visit our office for teeth cleaning appointments, we will measure the space between your teeth and gums to check for signs of gum disease.

What causes gum disease?

Plaque is a sticky form of bacteria that builds up on the teeth to cause this condition. Plaque continues to build up and will form gum-damaging toxins if it is not removed by flossing, brushing, and regular professional teeth cleaning. The disease occurs just below the gum line and creates small pockets that separate the gums and the teeth.

How does gum disease progress?

There are two stages of this disease.

  • Gingivitis is the first stage. Gingivitis causes gums to become red and swollen, and to bleed easily. At this stage, the disease is still treatable, and patients can usually eliminate it by adhering to a regimen of daily brushing and flossing.
  • Periodontitis is the second stage. Gingivitis left untreated will become periodontitis, seriously and irreversibly damaging the gums and bone that support the teeth. When the gums are infected with periodontitis, the teeth can become loose, fall out, or require removal by a dentist.

Which factors increase the risk of gum disease?

  • Bridges that do not fit properly
  • Crooked teeth
  • Diabetes
  • Old fillings
  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking or using chewing tobacco
  • Specific types of medication (anti-epilepsy drugs, calcium channel blockers, cancer therapy drugs, oral contraceptives, and steroids)

Are there any recognizable symptoms?

It is frequently possible to have gum disease and not realize it. However, these symptoms may indicate that gum disease has begun to develop:

  • Any change in the fit of partial dentures
  • Any change in the way teeth fit together when biting
  • Gums that bleed easily
  • Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
  • Permanent teeth that are loose or separating
  • Persistent bad breath or bad taste
  • Pus between the teeth and gums
  • Red, swollen, tender gums

More information on symptoms is found here.

What are the treatments for gum disease?

Treatments depend on the severity of the case, and they can vary. Typical treatments include:

  • Dental implants
  • Non-surgical treatments, including at-home periodontal trays, and scaling and root planing (deep cleaning)
  • Periodontal surgery and laser gum surgery

What are the best ways to prevent gum disease?

Prevention begins with the practice of good oral hygiene at home. By flossing your teeth once daily and brushing them twice daily, you can significantly minimize your risk of developing gum disease. Keep your sugary drinks and snacks to a minimum, and eat a balanced diet.

Schedule regular teeth cleaning visits—at least twice a year—to help keep your smile healthy. These visits, and the periodontal examinations they include, are crucial to maintaining your health and the health of your smile. You don’t have to lose teeth to gum disease!