Understanding Gum Disease: Causes, Stages, and Risks
Did you know that almost 3 in 10 Australian adults have gum disease? This alarming figure shows the high prevalence of this serious gum infection, which is entirely reversible in the early stages. However, once it progresses, gum disease can have damaging effects on your oral and overall health. Understanding this condition and recognising its symptoms can help protect you from gum disease and its associated risks. In this article, we will dig deeper into this disease, exploring its causes, stages and treatments to help you stay informed and retain healthy and strong gums. Read on to learn more.
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is an infection which affects the gums and supporting structures around the teeth. Its primary cause is poor oral hygiene, which can lead to plaque or tartar buildup. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria which naturally forms on our teeth when we consume food and beverages. Daily brushing is usually enough to remove plaque. However, if left on the teeth, it eventually hardens into tartar, which can only be removed with a professional dental cleaning. When the bacteria penetrates your gumline, it leads to gum inflammation, causing red, swollen or bleeding gums. This is the first stage of gum disease, known as gingivitis. Consistent oral hygiene practices and a dental clean can help reverse gum disease at this stage.
If gingivitis is left untreated, it can advance into periodontitis. During this stage, the inflammation spreads into the gum tissues, forming pockets where the bacteria accumulates. A root planing or scaling is necessary to clean the tartar from these pockets and prevent further progression. If not cleaned, the infection spreads to the surrounding bone and ligaments, leading to gum recession, bone loss, loose teeth and potential tooth loss. Advanced treatment may be required for periodontal disease to help manage it and prevent further damage to your teeth and gums. Periodontal disease is a chronic condition and has no cure; it can only be managed and treated to retain the gums and teeth you have left.
Symptoms of Gum Disease
Gum disease is caused by poor oral hygiene and the accumulation of bacteria in your mouth. Its symptoms in the initial stages are mostly silent and painless, only becoming visible when the infection has spread into the deeper gum pockets and the surrounding structures. That’s why it is important to be aware of the potential signs of gum disease, as early intervention and treatment can prevent it from progressing and damaging your oral and overall health.
Some of the symptoms of gum disease include:
- Bleeding gums – if your gums bleed when brushing, flossing or eating, it may indicate gingivitis, an early onset of gum disease.
- Pain or sensitivity – pain or tooth sensitivity to extreme temperatures or while eating or drinking
- Red or swollen gums – inflamed gums which look red and swollen can be infected.
- Gum recession – when gums start pulling away from the teeth or receding, making your teeth look longer.
- Deep gum pockets – formation of deep gum pockets or spaces between your teeth and gums. (periodontitis)
- Loose or shifting teeth – loose, wobbly or shifting teeth because of gum damage. (periodontitis)
- Bad breath – persistent bad breath even after regular brushing, flossing and using mouthwash.
Risks of Gum Disease
Gum disease can have lasting consequences on your dental and physical health. Apart from the damage to your gums and teeth, the bacteria in your mouth can enter your bloodstream, weakening your immune system and increasing the risk of systematic diseases. Periodontal disease has been linked to Alzheimer’s, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. It affects your immune system’s ability to fight infection, making your body more susceptible to other diseases. Adopting good oral hygiene practices, regular dental checkups, and healthy lifestyle habits can significantly reduce the risk of periodontal disease.
Gum Disease Treatments
The treatment for gum disease depends on how far the disease has progressed, the condition of your teeth and overall health. Mild to moderate cases can usually be treated in a few procedures, while advanced periodontal disease requires more complex treatment and management.
The treatment for gum disease may include:
Professional Dental Cleaning
A deep cleaning, which includes scaling and root planing to remove the tartar deposits from the tooth surface and beneath the gumline, is typically the first step of gum disease treatment. It removes the bacteria, reducing the risk of infection and preventing further buildup.
If there is an infection, your dentist may prescribe medications to control it and reduce inflammation.
Surgical intervention may be needed if the disease has progressed into periodontitis. Flap surgery, soft tissue and bone grafts help remove tartar deposits, reduce pocket depth, repair gum tissue, and augment bone structure.
Laser-assisted treatments can also be used to remove the infected tissue and promote healing.
Maintenance & Management
Regular dental cleaning and ongoing monitoring will be required to control the infection. This depends on the severity of your case and your treatment plan. Your dentist will also guide you on effective at-home care to support the ongoing treatments with the appropriate tools and products.
Preventive care is critical to preventing gum disease. Keep your teeth clean with regular brushing, using a strong fluoride toothpaste. Use interdental brushes or dental floss to remove food debris and particles between teeth. This prevents plaque or bacteria from entering your gumline, thus reducing the risk of gum disease and cavities. Avoid unhealthy habits like smoking and stay hydrated as water washes away food particles and bacteria.
Lastly, don’t miss your half-yearly dental checkups as they allow your dentist to detect emerging dental problems early, negating the need for extensive treatments and protecting your teeth and gums.
Take Charge of Your Oral Health!
At Bluegum Dental Clinic, we offer personalised treatment plans to meet your specific needs, state-of-the-art technology and a team of highly trained dentists to keep your teeth and gums healthy for life. From general dental treatments for common problems and preventive care to help maintain your oral health to teeth straightening and whitening, we have you covered. Talk to us for personalised guidance and comprehensive solutions tailored to your dental needs.