Gum disease: Treatments, Symptoms & Prevention
Gum disease is a serious condition that can cause lose teeth, damage to gums and even the breakdown of the bones and connective tissues that hold your teeth in place.
Also known as periodontal disease or periodontitis, gum disease is caused by bacteria build up in the mouth. Plaque – that sticky white stuff that forms on teeth — is filled with bacteria. When plaque builds up it forms tartar ‘calculus’ which can harbour bacteria.
How can I prevent gum disease?
Your gums benefit from the same oral hygiene practices that the rest of your mouth does. When brushing make sure to gently brush your gums and the point where your teeth and gums connect. Use a soft toothbrush to ensure you are not damaging your gums.
Flossing is particularly important to prevent gum disease. Since gum disease is caused by a buildup of plaque, flossing can get rid of the buildup that a toothbrush just can’t reach. For best results, floss at least three times a week and ideally once per day.
See your dentist every six months. If you do happen to have a buildup of plaque or tartar on your teeth, regular visits to your dental hygienist can help keep your teeth and gums in good shape. However, prevention is always better than the cure. Seeing your dentist shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for flossing or brushing.
Use an electric toothbrush. Electric brushes have small heads and can make it easier to brush all angles of your teeth.
What is the difference between gingivitis and periodontitis?
Gingivitis is a milder form of periodontitis. It is caused by poor oral hygiene habits. However, gingivitis is able to be treated at home by improving your flossing and brushing routine. Gingivitis is a mild inflammation of your gums. If your gums bleed when flossing it can be a sign of gingivitis. However, some people with periodontitis don’t develop any symptoms of gingivitis.
Periodontitis causes more serious inflammation to the gums and can lead to infection and the loss of bone and gum tissue.
What are the symptoms of gum disease?
If you have one of more of these symptoms you could be at risk of periodontitis:
- loose teeth (not caused by injury or age)
- bad breath (halitosis)
- sore gums/tenderness while brushing
- receding gums
- infections between your teeth
- gaps opening between teeth
How is Gum Disease treated?
If you are experiencing any symptoms of gum disease you should see your dentist immediately. Since gum disease is caused by plaque your dentist may remove this buildup using a deep cleaning method of scaling or root planning.
Scaling involves scraping off the plaque that has formed above and below your gum line. Root planing involves removing the rough areas on the tooth root where bacteria tend to grow. This helps stop the disease. Medications are sometimes used to help bacteria and infection.
In serious cases flap surgery may be necessary. During surgery the dentist removes tartar from under your gums by lifting and cleaning beneath them. Once the gums heal they will fit more tightly around the teeth and with good oral hygiene habits, keep them from coming loose.
Am I at risk of gum disease?
Some people are more at risk than others of developing periodontitis. These include people who smoke, are pregnant, have diabetes, or other medical issues.
Smoking is strongly associated with developing gum disease. Since smoking lowers your immune response and effects blood circulation a smokers gums aren’t as strong at fighting off bacterial infections. Smoking can even suppress the symptoms of gingivitis so many smokers don’t know they are at risk of gingivitis or gum disease.
Pregnancy can cause gums to become more sensitive which makes it easier for inflammation to develop.
Diabetes causes blood vessels to thicken which puts you at a high risk for developing infections like gum disease.
Other medical issues
Some medications affect how much saliva your mouth produces. Saliva is actually helpful in preventing bacteria from forming on your gums. A dry mouth is more susceptible to infection.
How is gum disease diagnosed?
A dentist will be able to diagnose whether or not you have gum disease. If your gums are sore or bleed while brushing or flossing, you may have gingivitis or the more serious infection of gum disease.
At your dental examination a dentist or dental hygienist should ask about your medical history and general health. This will help them determine whether there are any underlying conditions or risks – like smoking – that may contribute to gum disease.
They will also examine your gums and look for signs of inflammation and any pockets that may have formed in your gums.
Prevent gum disease by booking a dental hygienist appointment today
If you think you may have gum disease (or gingivitis) the best thing to do is book an appointment with a dentist. At Gentle Dental all of our hygienists are university qualified and experts in preventative care.
Our dental hygienists will examine your gums and work with you and your dentist to treat and prevent gum disease. Book an appointment today.