Gum disease or periodontal disease refers to a bacterial infection of the gum that can even spread to the bone that surrounds teeth and it has even been linked to heart disease. Gum disease can be isolated to one tooth, or across the entire gum. There are essentially two scales of gum disease, running from least severe to most severe:
- Gingivitis, which is inflammation
- Periodontitis, which is a severe infection
Your gums are one of the most essential structures in your mouth, which is why caring for them is so crucial.
This is the name given to early-stage gum disease. It causes swollen and red gums, and rarely requires any form of surgical intervention. In most cases, gingivitis can be reversed by a professional scale and clean, and an improved at home oral care routine.
Getting gingivitis treated as early as possible is vital, as the more advanced stage periodontitis is far harder to manage.
Periodontitis refers to an advanced stage of gum disease, which involves the loss of supporting bone structure.
It can cause lasting damage to teeth, and the longer it is allowed to progress, the harder it is to treat. It may eventually lead to teeth being lost.
The Difference Between Gingivitis and Periodontitis
These terms are often used interchangeably, but they are very different. Gingivitis refers to red, swollen gums that bleed easily, especially after brushing. Periodontitis refers to periodontal disease which has a range of symptoms, including bone loss around loose teeth.
Treating Gum Disease
The first step in treating gum disease will involve an examination of your teeth and gums to diagnose what stage you’re at. As mentioned above, treating early-stage disease is quite easy. More advanced stages can be handled in two ways:
- Non-Surgical: Antibiotics and a deep-cleaning procedure, called tooth scaling and root planing, attacks the infection and removes the calculus and plaque that have accrued below the gum line. Laser technology can also assist in eliminating both bacteria and plaque.
- Surgical: Surgical treatment involves reducing pockets, as well as techniques to encourage the regeneration of tissue and bone that has been lost. You may also need to have excess gum tissue removed, or have soft tissue grafted onto the exposed bone.
What Causes Gum Disease?
Many factors can increase your risk of suffering from gum disease, including:
- Poor Oral Hygiene: You need to brush and floss daily to remove bacteria and plaque before it settles and creates any issues.
- Smoking: Using tobacco products has been shown to significantly increase the likelihood of gum disease.
- Illness: Diabetes, as well as autoimmune disorders, blood disorders (e.g Anemia) and chemotherapy treatment are tied to increased levels of gum disease.
- Medications: Any medications that dry up saliva will increase the risk of disease, as saliva is crucial in washing way plaque and bacteria.
Preventing Gum Disease
If you want to reduce the chance of suffering from any form of gum disease, you need to focus on the following:
- Good Oral Hygiene: Brushing and flossing are essential. You should brush before breakfast and just before you go to bed, and floss daily.
- Diet: You should focus on eating plenty of whole foods, like fruits and vegetables while limiting sugary, acidic and processed foods.
- Lifestyle: You should quit using any tobacco products, and consume alcohol in moderation.
- Regular Dental Check-Ups: You should see a dentist at least once every six months. If you get a professional clean done twice a year, your chance of suffering gum disease will be significantly reduced. A regular check-up will also give your dentist a chance to detect any early-stage gum disease before it progresses to periodontitis.
Gum disease is a serious oral health condition, but it’s also a condition you can take control over. If you look after your oral health, lead a healthy lifestyle and visit your dentist twice a year you won’t have to worry about losing teeth as a result of gum disease.