Gum disease, which is also referred to as periodontitis or periodontal disease, is a series of inflammatory conditions that affect the gums. The disease usually occurs as a result of poor oral hygiene. If you don’t brush your teeth every day and floss regularly, your teeth will have an accumulation of plaque.
Plague is a thin layer of mucus, bacteria and food particles that when not removed through practices like brushing, hardens to form tartar or calculus. Tartar is associated with a lot of bacteria and receding of gums. The bacteria can cause serious inflammation of the gums, and this, combined with the receding gums as a result of tartar, can cause teeth to become loose and fall out.
Below are six key facts about gum disease.
- Bacteria-related plaque accumulation is the main cause of gum disease
The main cause of gum disease is the accumulation of plaque on the teeth surfaces as a result of the presence of bacteria and other materials in the areas between teeth. Brushing and flossing daily helps remove the thin layer of plaque that is formed on the teeth every day. However, if you do not brush your teeth twice every day and floss regularly, the layer of plaque will grow and harden to form tartar.
Plaque harbors bacteria that cause infections in the gums. And when plaque becomes tartar, the hard layer damages the gums, leading to receding gums. One of the effects of increased plaque and tartar buildup is that it increases the proliferation of bacteria that cause serious gum infection. Another effect is that plaque and tartar cause the roots of teeth to become exposed as a result of gum recession.
The early stage of periodontitis is a condition known as gingivitis. At this stage, the bacteria that are associated with plaque buildup cause gums to become swollen and susceptible to bleeding when you brush your teeth. Later, the infection becomes severe and progresses to gum disease. The gum disease stage is associated with signs such as deep pockets between the gums and teeth, severely inflamed and bleeding gums, receding gums, loose teeth, damaged jawbones, and tooth loss.
- There are several risk factors associated with the disease
While bacteria-related plaque accumulation is the leading cause of periodontal disease, there are several risk factors that are associated with the disease. The risk factors are outlined below.
- Age: Studies have indicated that older people are more prone to gum disease. According to data from the CDC, more than 70% of Americans aged 65 years and above have gum disease.
- Smoking and tobacco use: Smoking increases the risk of plaque buildup on teeth and gums, tooth decay, and gum damage. As a result, you are at an increased risk of gum infection if you smoke. Research has also shown that tobacco use increases the risk of periodontal diseases.
- Stress: Research has established that stress can reduce the body’s ability to fight infections, which include gum infection.
- Gingivitis: If you have gingivitis and it is not treated, it can progress into gum disease.
- Grinding or clenching your teeth: Grinding or clenching your teeth puts excess pressure on the teeth’s supporting tissues. This can increase the damage to periodontal tissues.
- Obesity and poor nutrition: Research has established that obesity may increase the risk of gum disease. It has also been established that a diet that has inadequate essential nutrients may compromise the body’s immunity, making it difficult for the body to defend itself against infections like gum infection.
- Systemic diseases: Diseases that have an impact on the inflammatory systems of the body may worsen gum infection. Such diseases include diabetes and arthritis.
- Medications: Some drugs, including anti-depressants, a number of heart medicines, and oral contraceptives, may have an impact on your oral health.
- Genetics: Research has found that some people may be more susceptible to gum disease than others due to differences in genetic makeup.
- Gum disease has many symptoms
The symptoms of gum diseases include:
- Red, purple or swollen gums
- Gums that bleed during and after brushing
- Persistent pain in the gums and when chewing
- Receding gums
- Formation of deep pockets between the gums and teeth.
- Persistent bad breath and/or dysgeusia (impaired sense of taste)
- Teeth that are loose or which tend to have shifted from their original positions
- Notable changes in the grip of teeth during biting. If you have partial dentures, you will notice a change in the fit of the dentures.
- Tooth sensitivity, especially at the root area
- Pus in the gums and root area
- Gum disease can cause tooth loss and other complications
Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss. The disease can cause teeth to loosen and even fall out if not treated.
Periodontal disease is also associated with other complications. For example, the bacteria that cause the disease can penetrate into your bloodstream via the gum tissue. There is a possibility that such bacteria can affect other organs of your body. Gum disease is linked with diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, respiratory disease, coronary heart disease, and diabetes.
- Treatment for gum disease can be or surgical or non-surgical
Various treatment options are available for gum disease. The treatment option that your dental care provider will recommend depends on the stage of the disease. For gum disease that has not progressed much, the dental practitioner may recommend non-surgical treatments like dental cleaning and scaling and root planing.
On the other hand, if you have a severe infection, the dentist or dental prosthodontist may recommend surgical procedures like bone grafting, flap surgery, soft tissue grafting, jawbone surgery, guided tissue regeneration, and guided bone regeneration.
- Good oral hygiene and regular dental visits can help prevent gum disease
The best way to prevent gum disease is by reducing the activity of plaque-related bacteria in your mouth. Good oral care measures like brushing your teeth two times a day and flossing regularly help prevent the development of an atmosphere that promotes the growth of bacteria and plaque buildup.
You also need to visit a dentist regularly for checkups and dental cleaning. Regular dental checkups can help in detecting conditions such as tooth decay, dry mouth and mild gum infection, which when treated will help avert gum disease.
Gum disease is mainly caused by the buildup of plaque on the teeth and gums, though other factors like age, smoking, poor nutrition, stress and systemic diseases can increase the risk of the disease. Periodontitis has several symptoms including swollen or bleeding gums, receding gums, tooth sensitivity, and loose teeth. Treatment for gum disease includes non-surgical and surgical procedures. The good news is that you can prevent the disease by brushing and flossing regularly and visiting your dentist frequently.