Gum Disease Symptoms And What Is Causing It?
Did you know that 65 million adults in the US, with the age of 30 years and older have some form of gum disease? And that it can increase your risk of diabetes, osteoporosis, pneumonia, heart disease and cancer? Even more alarming is the fact that gum disease affects only a small part of the mouth so it is so easy to miss. There may be many unreported cases and its prevalence among the adults may be higher than estimated.
And the odds are, you have it too, you might not know it just yet.
The hard fact is gum disease is a silent killer and what you do not know can kill you. So let us take a deeper look at gum disease, its causes, its symptoms and prevention as well as treatments for advanced stages.
So what is a gum disease and what causes it?
Gum or periodontal disease is an infection of the gums and bone that support the teeth. It occurs when germs infect the gums causing redness, swelling and bleeding. It is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults. There have also been studies that showed gum disease is linked to many chronic illnesses such as strokes, heart disease, preterm or stillborn births as well as certain types of cancers.
The most common and mild variety of gum disease is gingivitis and the more advance stage is periodontitis.
Gingivitis vs Periodontitis
Gingivitis is the swelling of the gums caused by plaque build-up. Plaque is produced by the mouth. It is a sticky film consisting of saliva, germs and bacteria. If not brushed away, the plaque develops into a barnacle- like material known as tartar.
Over time, the tartar hardens. Once it does, it would be very difficult to remove. It will continue to grow and infect your gums causing redness and bleeding.
If left untreated, Gingivitis will progress into Periodontitis. In this phase, the tartar expands from the surface of your teeth to your gum line. The hardened deposit will edge its way down causing the gums and the teeth as well as the supporting bone to separate slightly from each other, forming periodontal pockets.
As a result, you will experience swelling, pain while chewing, teeth misalignment, looseness and bleeding. It can also cause sores inside the mouth, sensitive teeth and persistent bad breath. Unless you seek treatment, the infection and the pockets will continue to deepen, eating away the jawbone until the teeth will become loose and fall out. A discharge of pus from the gums is a symptom of advanced periodontitis and seeking professional help should not be delayed.
What are the symptoms of Gingivitis?
Since gingivitis rarely causes pain, its symptoms can be easily overlooked. You might not even realize you have it until your next dental appointment. But there are telltale signs of gingivitis.
You may have it, if your gums are:
- A dusky red in color (healthy gum is pale pink)
- Swollen or puffy
- Occasionally tender
- Bleeding after brushing or flossing
What are the causes of gingivitis?
Often times, gum disease is caused by poor dental hygiene, but there are other factors that can contribute or increase the risk of developing gingivitis. Some of them are the following:
- Smoking or chewing tobacco – it prevents the gum tissue from being able to heal
- Hormonal changes in puberty, pregnancy and menopause – the increase in hormones causes the blood vessels in gums to be more susceptible to chemical and bacterial attack
- Cancer and cancer treatments – cancer treatments lowers the effectivity of the immune system, making a person more susceptible to infection, and increases the risk of gum disease
- Poor nutrition, especially a diet high in sugar and carbohydrates increase plaque formation, and Vitamin C deficiency will impair healing
- Diabetes reduces blood circulation and the gum’s ability to heal
- Crooked teeth, rotated and overlapping teeth create more areas for plaque to accumulate, and are harder to clean
How do I get rid of Gingivitis? Can it be reversed?
Thankfully, the damage caused by gingivitis can be reversed by getting your teeth professionally cleaned on a regular basis. Brushing twice a day and flossing as well as using a mouthwash can also halt the progress of the disease.
How about Periodontitis? What treatments are available?
For the advance stage of gum disease, the goal is to control the infection. Your dentist will have to evaluate your teeth and the affected areas to figure out where to start. Treatments may include:
Deep Cleaning – is the first line of treatment for gum disease. Unlike regular cleaning, which is usually lifting away plaque deposit above the gum line, deep cleaning goes under the gums. Your dentist may use special instruments to reach and pull out all traces of tartar in the pockets.
The dentist or hygienist may perform scaling. The scrapping of tartar both above and below the gum line. As well as root planing, that is when rough surfaces of your roots are smoothed out to help your gums reattach to your tooth.
Antibiotics – for severe periodontitis, your dentist may prescribe a short course of antibiotics to treat the infection. Some health professionals may also prescribe an antibiotic gel to help reduce the size of the pocket and get rid of bacteria
Surgery – sometimes deep cleaning will not be enough to take care of the problem, your dentist may recommend gum graft surgery, where a tissue is taken from another part of your mouth to prevent bone loss and decay or flap surgery, where your gum is lifted up to get the tartar underneath your gum line. The gum will be stitched back to its place to prevent more tartar from forming.
Antimicrobial mouthrinse – your health professional may prescribe chlorhexidine or hexetidine to clear away bacteria as part of your daily brushing-flossing routine. It is both available by prescription and OTC (over-the-counter).
How can I avoid getting gum disease?
“An ounce of prevention is always better than a pound of cure.” Regular dental hygiene visits with regular brushing and flossing topped with proper nutrition are your best bet for avoiding dental infections.
If you think you have early signs of gum problems, do not hesitate to see your dentist. Take control of your health and your life by stopping gum disease in its tracks today, before you start losing teeth tomorrow.
About the Author:
Peter Boulden is the head dentist at http://www.atlantadentalspa.com. In his spare time he likes to help people anyway he can, and his best spent time is a movie night with the family.