Gum disease is an infection from a buildup of bacteria in the gums and tissues around the teeth, and for adults can cause permanent tooth loss. Monitoring the health of your gums is vitally important as not only does gum disease affect your teeth and mouth, but it can also be a sign of, or a cause of, health issues in other parts of the body. Your dentist, or periodontist if the gum disease has progressed, can help you treat gum disease and guide you on how to prevent it or to keep it from returning.
Good dental hygiene is a must, and the basic methods of prevention are:
- Everyone should brush their teeth at least twice a day. There are a few options to pick from for brushes; some people prefer softer or harder bristles, some prefer electric brushes, and others use a water-pik device. All of these options have their pros and cons; a lot of it comes down to personal preference or a recommendation from your dentist.
- Daily flossing is especially important to prevent the buildup of plaque, the harbinger of gum disease, between teeth where a brush may not be reaching.
- Rinsing your mouth with a mouth wash that is intended to prevent gingivitis
Gingivitis, which has symptoms including sensitive teeth, and red, bleeding, or swollen gums, is the most common type of gum-related disease. In its beginning stages, gingivitis may not be noticeable other than the buildup of a film of plaque along the gum line. This buildup contains bacteria that can grow and begin to cause damage to your gums. If left untreated, it may lead to a more serious condition called periodontitis .
Signs of Gingivitis
- Irritated, swollen, or sensitive gums
- Brushing and flossing may cause the gums to bleed
- Gumline may show signs of receding from the teeth
- Frequent bad breath from the buildup of bacteria
- Teeth may feel loose
Risk Factors of Gingivitis
- Smokers and those who use chewing tobacco or snuff are more likely to develop gingivitis or periodontitis than people who do not use any of those products. Vaping may also cause an increase in dry mouth and swelling in the gums from the nicotine that is present.
- Pregnant women are at higher risk of developing gingivitis due to hormonal changes in the body.
- Diabetics should do their best to avoid any type of infection, and gum disease can lead to both infections and bleeding gums, which they may find difficult to heal from. They are also more likely to suffer from dry mouth, which is a leading cause of gum disease.
Treatments for Gingivitis
When the first signs of gingivitis appear, it is important to make sure you have been following the guidelines of proper oral care of brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash. Adhering to those guidelines more closely may be able to prevent it from becoming worse and reverse it eventually. If it has already progressed to the more tender or painful symptoms, particularly bleeding from the gums, it is time to visit your dentist, who can give you a plan to keep the gingivitis under control.
Untreated gingivitis can develop into periodontitis, leading to your gums pulling away from your teeth. This can cause pockets to form in which bacteria can collect, leading to deeper infections. These infections cause the gums to create even deeper pockets leading to even more gum recession and the possibility of tooth loss. It is very important that gingivitis be caught and treated as soon as possible to prevent periodontitis from occurring.
Because it develops from gingivitis, the underlying causes remain the same, which is the buildup of plaque and bacteria. However, as with gingivitis, other risk factors may be at play that might cause issues in your mouth that would lead to gum disease. One of the biggest causes of plaque buildup is dry mouth, which can come from illnesses such as diabetes or medication that affect saliva production. A lack of saline not only causes plaque to form but may also cause food particles to stay in the mouth rather than being swallowed. If you are experiencing frequent dry mouth, it is important to inform your dentist to determine what is causing the issue.
Treatments for Periodontitis
Once periodontitis has set in, there are several options for treating the symptoms and underlying disease. Your dentist or periodontist may recommend a deep clean around the sockets of your teeth to remove the bacteria and plaque, which should help prevent damage to the bones under your gum. Along with the deep clean, there are a few medications, such as penicillin, that may be prescribed to clear up any bacteria infections that have developed. There are also topical antiseptics that can be applied directly to the gums.
Other Treatments for Gum Disease
When gums begin to recede from your teeth, which can be caused by gingivitis or periodontitis, there are a few options available for treatment to repair the damage. Some treatments involve surgery, and others are a type of deep clean.
One option to cover the gaps where your gums have receded is to perform a gum graft. For this, small pieces of the roof of your mouth are taken and transplanted to cover the exposed roots around your teeth.
Pinhole Surgical Technique
Similar to gum grafting, this procedure makes small holes in your gums, and your periodontist will then move your gums to realign with your teeth using precision instruments. This is less painful, minimally invasive, and recovery time is quicker than traditional grafting.
Root Planing and Scaling
This is a deep clean method that removes the plaque buildup from below the gum line or the bacteria from the pockets that may have formed.
Gum diseases can be quite painful, and the treatment options can be invasive or even painful, so good, consistent oral care is the key to preventing these types of diseases from taking root. If you suspect you may have any of these symptoms and an increase in daily preventative measures have not reduced them, it is important to see your dentist for further guidance.