Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is an infection of the gums surrounding your teeth. Gum disease is one of the top reasons for tooth loss in adults, and because it is virtually pain-free, many patients do not know they have the disease. During each regular checkup, Dr. Nathanson and our team will check for signs of periodontal disease by measuring the space between your teeth and gums.
What causes gum disease?
Gum disease is caused by a buildup of plaque (a sticky form of bacteria that forms on the teeth). If the plaque is not removed (by flossing, brushing, and regular dental checkups), it will continue to build up and create toxins that can damage the gums. Periodontal disease forms just below the gum line and creates small pockets that separate the gums from the teeth. Periodontal disease has two stages: gingivitis and periodontitis.
- Gingivitis — Gingivitis is reversible and only involves your gum tissue. It is caused by poor home care, not having regular cleanings, and the buildup of a certain type of bacteria. If you have gingivitis, you may notice that your gums bleed easily and are tender, or have started to pull away from your teeth.
Treating gingivitis is a two-step cleaning to remove plaque and tartar buildup. We also reinforce the need for regular cleanings and appropriate home hygiene.
- Periodontitis — If gingivitis gets worse, it can become periodontitis, which involves the supporting structure around your teeth, bone loss, and overall structural loss so your teeth can become loose. Periodontitis is a life-long condition that cannot be reversed.
We can prevent the progression of the disease with in-depth scaling and root planning and seeing you more frequently for cleanings. To aid in your comfort during treatment, we use Oraqix, a topical anesthetic that sets as a gel in the periodontal pocket.
Certain factors can increase a patient's risk of developing periodontal disease, including:
- Smoking or using chewing tobacco
- Certain types of medication such as steroids, anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, calcium channel blockers, and oral contraceptives
- Bridges that no longer fit properly
- Crooked teeth
- Old fillings
While it is possible to have periodontal disease and not know it, some symptoms can include:
- Gums that bleed easily
- Red, swollen, tender gums
- Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
- Persistent bad breath or bad taste
- Pus between your teeth and gums
- Permanent teeth that are loose or separating
- Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- Any change in the fit of partial dentures
Treating Gum Disease
Treatments for gum disease can vary depending on the severity of each individual case. Typical treatments include:
- Non-surgical treatments such as at-home periodontal trays, and scaling and root planing (deep cleaning)
- Periodontal surgery and laser gum surgery
- Dental implants
Preventing Gum Disease
Regular dental checkups and periodontal examinations are important for maintaining your health and the health of your smile. You don't have to lose teeth to periodontal disease, and by practicing good oral hygiene at home, you can significantly reduce your chances of ever getting gum disease.
In addition to poor home care, stress, age, genetics, obesity, medical conditions, and smoking can all work against you in causing gum disease. The best prevention is and will always be good home care, brushing and flossing every day, and being regular with your dental checkups at our Hunt Valley dental office.