23 Aug Your Guide To Gum Disease: What Is It, Symptoms, Causes, Prevention, and Treatment
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is the inflammation of the gum line that can affect the bone and tissues that support the teeth and hold them in place. Gum disease can cause your gums to become swollen, sore, and infected, and, if left untreated, completely deteriorate your gums and bone, resulting in tooth loss.
Most adults in Britain have gum disease. According to a recent study by University of College London Hospitals, it is estimated that 50-70% of the British population suffer from of gum disease.
There are 3 stages of gum disease – gingivitis, periodontitis, and advanced periodontitis.
Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease. This is the inflammation of the gums and is caused by plaque buildup on the gum line. Signs of gingivitis include red and swollen gums and bleeding when brushing. However, gingivitis can be treated and gum disease reversed in these early stages.
If the first stage of gum disease is not treated, your gums can worsen into periodontitis, in which the supporting bone and tissues holding the teeth in place are damaged. At this stage, the gums can form a pocket below the gum line which encourages the growth of plaque and the collection of pus. Periodontal therapy and better oral hygiene can prevent further damage.
This can further worsen into advanced periodontitis. In this advanced stage, the bone and teeth fibres that hold your teeth in place are being destroyed. This can cause your teeth to shift and loosen and can fall out, affecting your bite and eating. Periodontal therapy may help, but your teeth may need to be removed by a dentist or periodontal specialist.
Symptoms of Gum Disease
Gum disease can be very subtle in presenting itself. Its silent nature can make it very difficult to know whether you have the disease. If you experience any of the following symptoms, consult your dental specialist who can identify any warning signs.
- Bleeding gums when brushing or flossing
- Overly sensitive teeth
- Bad breath or bad taste in the mouth
- Swollen, red, or tender gums
- Pain or sensitivity when chewing
- Gums receding away from the tooth
- Pockets developing between teeth and gums
- Pus surrounding teeth and gums
- Loose teeth
- Movement or shifting of teeth
Cause of Gum Disease
Gum disease is caused by bacteria in plaque. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms over teeth. If this plaque is not removed by brushing and flossing, it can build up between gums and teeth and harden into tartar, also called calculus, which further encourages build up of plaque. The bacteria in plaque and tartar grows and inflames and infects the gums. It can wear away, weaken, and deteriorate the gum tissue and supporting bone, leading to tooth loss and gum recession. Brushing or flossing cannot remove this tartar, it can only be removed by a professional dental cleaning.
Gum Disease Prevention
The key to preventing gum disease is good oral hygiene to keep plaque and tartar at bay. You should brush your teeth using fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day for 2-3 minutes to remove food debris, bad bacteria, and plaque from tooth surfaces, tongue, and gum line. You should also floss at least once a day to remove food and plaque trapped in between teeth. Additionally, use mouthwash to reduce plaque and food particles missed by brushing and flossing.
Smoking increases the risk of gum disease as it reduces oxygen levels in the blood which prevents infected gums from healing. Smoking also causes more bacteria that produces plaque, leading to unhealthy gums. So, to prevent gum disease, you should stop smoking.
It is also important to maintain a healthy diet to reduce risk. Eat a well balanced diet with enough vitamins and minerals to keep tissues healthy and strong to support teeth. Avoid sugary foods as the bad bacteria in plaque thrives off sugar, using it to grow and worsen.
Regular dental checkups will ensure any issues are detected and treated before they advance. By visiting your dentist every 6 months, gum disease can be caught in the first stages and any problems easily combated before they worsen into periodontitis.
Gum Disease Treatment
You should visit the dentist if you experience painful or swollen gums or blood when brushing. A dentist can check the health of your gums using a periodontal probe or x-ray. They can conduct a thorough clean, scale, and polish to remove any hardened plaque or tartar above and below the gum line to ensure gums are disease-free.
Root planing can also be used to remove bacteria from around the roots and pockets on the gum line. If you have severe gum disease, a specialist in periodontics can perform surgery to reduce periodontal pockets. In cases of tooth loss, dentures or implants can be fitted.