If you are a North American adult over the age of 35, chances are you have gum disease. It affects about 35 percent of this population. The effects can be minor and result in bleeding or sore gums and a visit to the dentist for a thorough cleaning. But consequences also can be serious, ranging from loose and lost teeth to heart and breathing problems.
Gum disease is preventable. You can stop it. You can even get rid of the cause of periodontal disease and reverse the bad effects. This is particularly true if you catch gum disease in its early stages.
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is an inflammation of the gums that can progress to affect the bone that surrounds and supports your teeth. It is caused by the bacteria in plaque, a sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth. If not removed through daily brushing and flossing, plaque can build up. Bacteria can infect not only your gums and teeth, but eventually the supporting gum tissue and bone as well. This can cause teeth to become loose and fall out or have to be removed by a dentist.
3 Stages of Gum Disease:
Gingivitis: This is an inflammation of the gums caused by plaque build-up at the gum line. If daily brushing and flossing do not remove the plaque, it produces toxins (poisons) that can irritate the gum tissue, causing gingivitis. You may notice some bleeding during brushing and flossing. At this early stage, damage can be reversed, since the bone and connective tissue that hold the teeth in place are not yet affected.
Periodontitis: At this stage, the supporting bone and fibers that hold your teeth in place are irreversibly damaged. Your gums may begin to form a pocket below the gum line, which traps food and plaque. Proper dental treatment and improved home care can usually help prevent further damage.
Advanced Periodontitis: In this final stage, the fibers and bone supporting your teeth are destroyed, which can cause your teeth to shift or loosen. This can affect your bite. If aggressive treatment can’t save your teeth, they may need to be removed.
How Do I Know if I Have Gum Disease?
Gum disease can occur at any age, but is most common among adults. If detected in its early stages, it can be reversed. See your dentist if you notice any of these symptoms:
- Gums that are red, puffy, swollen or tender
- Gums that bleed during brushing or flossing
- Teeth that look longer because your gums have receded
- Gums that have separated or pulled away from your teeth, creating a pocket
- Changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- Pus coming from between your teeth and gums
- Constant bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth
How is Gum Disease Treated?
The early stages of gum disease can often be reversed with proper brushing and flossing. Good oral health will keep plaque from building up. A professional cleaning by your dentist or hygienist is the only way to remove plaque that builds up and hardens into tartar. If your condition is more severe, a root-planing procedure may be performed. Root-planing smoothest irregularities on the roots of the tooth, making it more difficult for plaque to deposit there.
If you recognize any signs of gum disease, talk to your dentist. Do so before it becomes a serious problem and you can escape the serious consequences of gum disease.