Gum disease is an infection of the tissues that surround and support your teeth. It is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. Because gum disease is usually painless, you may not know you have it. Also referred to as periodontal disease, gum disease is caused by plaque, the sticky film of bacteria that is constantly forming on our teeth.
Some warning signs that can signal a problem:
- Easily bleedy gums
- Tender, red, swollen gums
- Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
- Bad breath or bad taste that is persistent.
- Loose permanent teeth
- Changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
Some factors increase the risk of developing gum disease include:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Smoking or chewing tobacco
- Crowding or malaligment of teeth that are hard to keep clean
- Diabetes and other systemic diseases.
- Medications for certain diseases, including steroids, some types of anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, some calcium channel blockers and oral contraceptives.
The early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. Gums may become red, swollen and bleed easily.The disease is still reversible and can usually be controlled by a professional cleaning, followed by daily brushing and flossing. It is recommended to have professional cleanings twice a year or every 6 months to maintain oral health at this stage.
Advanced gum disease is called periodontitis. Chronic periodontitis can lead to the loss of tissue and bone that support the teeth and it may become more severe over time. Teeth feel loose and start moving around in your mouth. This is the most common form of periodontitis in adults but can occur at any age. It usually gets worse slowly, but there can be periods of rapid progression. Cleanings at this stage might be recommended three or four times a year depending on hope advanced periodontitis is to improve oral health.
Aggressive periodontitis is a highly destructive form of periodontal disease that occurs in patients who are otherwise healthy. Common characteristics include rapid loss of tissue and bone and may occur in some areas of the mouth, or in the entire mouth.
Studies relating systemic diseases and periodontal diseases are ongoing. While a link is not conclusive, some studies indicate that severe gum disease may be associated to several health conditions like stroke, diabetes, heart or kidney disease.
Gum disease could be silent and have no warning signs. That is one reason why regular dental checkups and periodontal examinations are very important. Treatment varies with stage of disease and progression. It is very important to have good home dental care keep periodontal disease from becoming more serious or recurring. If you have any questions about how to improve your oral hygiene ask our dental team, healthy gums will impact your whole body wellness.