Gum disease is a severe oral health issue that affects nearly half of all adults in the United States. Many people are unaware they have it until symptoms appear, often after it has progressed to severe stages requiring more complex treatments.
Gum disease can be reversed if detected and treated in the early stages. Maintaining good oral hygiene and visiting your dentist twice a year for cleanings and exams will help you avoid gum disease.
What Is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is an infection affecting the hard and soft tissues that support the teeth. It’s usually caused by lousy brushing and flossing habits, which allow plaque—a sticky film of bacteria—to build up and harden on the teeth. Gum disease progresses in two stages (Gingivitis and Periodontitis).
Gingivitis: The first stage of gum disease
Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums that is mainly caused by bacteria. Gingivitis is limited to the gingiva and does not extend to the periodontal attachment (periodontal ligament, cementum, and alveolar bone). Gingivitis is classified into two major categories.
• Dental plaque-induced gingivitis develops when plaque buildup irritates the gums, causing inflammation, discoloration, and pain.
• Non-plaque-induced gingival lesions, on the other hand, can be caused by a specific bacterial, viral, or fungal infection.
Periodontitis: The advanced stage of gum disease
If gingivitis is not treated, it can develop into periodontitis, a more severe gum disease. In addition, the gums become inflamed and detach from the teeth in some circumstances, generating pockets susceptible to infection.
Periodontitis is the most significant cause of tooth loss and can cause long-term harm to your teeth and the bones that support them. Periodontitis is a severe gum disease that cannot be treated at home.
What Causes Gum Disease?
Dental plaque continues to play a critical etiologic function, but the adverse effects of plaque bacteria are enhanced or modified by your body’s interactions. For example, pregnancy-associated gingivitis is one systemic cause in which your body’s hormone swings encourage the development of specific plaque flora members.
Patients with diabetes mellitus with poor metabolic control have more severe plaque-induced gingival inflammation than people who do not have diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the connection between gum disease and diabetes is bidirectional: Periodontitis can impair blood glucose control, and people with diabetes are more vulnerable to bacterial infection, which can lead to gum disease.
Certain drugs can enhance the development of gingival enlargement in plaque-induced gingival inflammation. Careful plaque control can often lessen, but not eliminate, the severity of this adverse effect. Certain anticonvulsants (e.g., phenytoin), immunosuppressive medicines (e.g., cyclosporin), and calcium channel blockers (e.g., nifedipine, verapamil, diltiazem) have this side effect.
What Are the Symptoms of Gum Disease?
If you have any of these symptoms, you should consult your general dentist or periodontist as soon as possible:
A dark red color instead of light pink gingiva
Normal gingival color is coral pink, caused by tissue vascularity and modified by the overlaying epithelium. The gingiva will get dark red due to increased vascularization caused by inflammation.
One of the most common indications of gum disease is bleeding when brushing, flossing, or eating. Plaque toxins produce a bacterial infection, which causes tissues prone to bleeding.
Swollen or puffy gingiva
The most prevalent cause of swollen gums is gingivitis. If your gums have been swollen for more than two weeks, you should see a dentist. The dentist will inquire when your symptoms began and how frequently they occur.
Breath odor can come from the back of the tongue, the lungs, the stomach, the food we eat, or tobacco usage. Old food particles behind the gum line can also create bad breath. In addition, the deeper gum pockets can hold more debris and bacteria, resulting in a foul odor.
Gum recession/ Longer-looking teeth
When gum disease progresses, your teeth may appear longer because the gums that cover them recede. Gum recession is the loss of gum tissue around a tooth, exposing the root.
Do you have unpleasant sensations in your teeth when you drink hot or cold drinks, crunch on ice, or expose them to chilly air? Dentin hypersensitivity, often known as tooth sensitivity, can be caused by exposed tooth roots. In addition, gum recession or pocketing might result in susceptible teeth in some circumstances.
Bone Destruction and Attachment Loss
Depending on the severity of the disease, periodontitis causes varying degrees of bone destruction. In its milder forms, the bone around the neck of teeth may resorb somewhat, whereas, in its more severe conditions, the bone around the roots may be entirely obliterated. Increased mobility or loss of the entire teeth.
How Can I Prevent Gum Disease?
• Professional cleanings at least twice a year and daily brushing and flossing are essential for plaque control. Brush your teeth at least twice a day.
• Rinse your mouth with antibacterial mouthwash.
• Floss daily.
• Other health and lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of gum disease, lessen its severity, and slow its progression.
• Stop smoking
• Manage your stress levels
• Develop healthy eating habits