Gum disease or periodontal disease is a severe oral health issue that affects millions of Americans annually. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 47.2% of adults over 30 in the United States have some form of periodontal disease. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatments of gum disease is essential for maintaining a healthy and beautiful smile. To help you get started, here is what you need to know about gum disease.
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is an inflammatory condition that affects the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth. It occurs when bacteria in plaque build-up on the teeth and gums, causing an infection. The early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis, which is characterized by red, swollen gums that may bleed during brushing or flossing. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, where the infection spreads and damages the structures holding the teeth.
Signs and Symptoms of Gum Disease
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of gum disease is crucial for early detection and prompt intervention. While some individuals may experience noticeable symptoms, note that gum disease can also develop silently, without obvious indications. Here are the key signs and symptoms to watch out for:
- Bleeding gums: Healthy gums should not bleed easily. If you consistently notice blood on your toothbrush or dental floss, it may be an early indicator of gum disease.
- Swollen or tender gums: Gum disease often causes inflammation, leading to swollen or puffy gums. Your gums may appear red rather than their usual healthy pink color. They might also feel tender or sensitive to touch.
- Receding gumline: Gum disease can cause the gums to pull away or recede from the teeth. As the gums recede, more of the tooth structure becomes exposed, making the teeth appear longer. Receding gums can also lead to tooth sensitivity.
- Bad breath (halitosis): Persistent bad breath that does not improve with regular oral hygiene practices or the use of mouthwash can be a sign of gum disease. The bacteria in the infected gums can produce foul-smelling gases, resulting in chronic bad breath.
- Loose or shifting teeth: As gum disease progresses, the infection can weaken the structures that support the teeth, including the gums and bone. This can lead to teeth becoming loose or shifting position, affecting your bite alignment and overall oral function.
- Pus or discharge: In more advanced stages of gum disease, the infection can form pockets between the teeth and gums. These pockets can harbor bacteria and debris, causing the accumulation of pus or discharge.
Prevention and Home Care
Preventing gum disease begins with a consistent oral care routine. Brush your teeth at least twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and use a soft-bristle toothbrush to help remove plaque and bacteria. Flossing frequently is equally important to clean between teeth and along the gumline. To further control periodontal disease-causing bacteria, incorporate an antimicrobial mouthwash into your dental care routine.
A balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in sugary snacks can also help promote oral health. Lifestyle factors play a significant role in preventing gum disease. That said, consider quitting smoking and reducing alcohol consumption, as these habits can contribute to the development and progression of the infection.
Lastly, schedule regular dental check-ups and professional cleanings to monitor oral health. Dentists can detect early signs of periodontal disease and provide necessary treatments. They may also provide more information on what you need to know about gum disease to help you avoid future infections.
Professional Treatment Options
When gum disease progresses beyond the early stage of gingivitis, more intensive treatments may be necessary to control the infection and restore gum health. This could include:
Scaling and Root Planing
Also known as deep cleaning, scaling, and root planing is a non-surgical procedure that is often the first line of treatment for gum disease. It involves carefully removing plaque and tartar deposits from above and below the gum line. Scaling removes the accumulated plaque and tartar, while root planing smooths the tooth roots. It helps the gums reattach to the teeth and reduces the formation of new plaque.
Sometimes, a dental care expert may prescribe antibiotics to control bacterial infection in the gums, reduce inflammation, and support healing. The treatment can be administered in various forms, such as oral tablets, mouth rinses, or gels.
Patients with advanced gum disease may require surgical intervention to repair and regenerate damaged gum and bone tissues. The most common surgery for gum disease treatment is flap surgery. It involves lifting the gums to access the underlying infected areas, removing the bacteria, and then suturing the gums back in place.
When gum recession occurs due to gum disease, a dental care expert can perform gum grafting on you to restore the gumline and cover exposed tooth roots. During this procedure, tissue is taken from another area of the mouth or a donor source and placed over the affected area, promoting gum tissue growth and reducing tooth sensitivity.
After undergoing treatment for gum disease, ensure you maintain regular follow-up visits with your dentist or periodontist for periodontal maintenance. These visits typically involve professional cleanings, monitoring the condition of your gums, and assessing the effectiveness of the treatment. Regular maintenance appointments help prevent the recurrence or progression of gum disease.
Get Quality Treatment for Gum Disease in Spokane, WA
Gum disease can have severe consequences for oral health, but with proper knowledge and preventive measures, you can manage it effectively. Regular dental check-ups, a consistent oral care routine, and the adoption of a healthy lifestyle are key to protecting your smile from gum disease. If you are experiencing symptoms of gum disease or are due for a dental check-up, seek professional help.
At Summit Family & Cosmetic Dentistry in Spokane, WA, we offer quality treatment for gum disease and comprehensive dental care. Our experienced dentists and hygienists will provide personalized care to promote optimal oral health. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and take the first step towards a healthy, disease-free smile.