What is gum disease?
Gum disease is an infection of the tissues and bones that surround and support the teeth. It is also called periodontal disease.
The two types of gum disease are called gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is mild gum disease that affects only the gums, the tissue that surrounds the teeth. Periodontitis more severe gum disease that spreads below the gums to damage the tissues and bone that support the teeth.
- Gingivitis causes red, swollen gums that bleed easily when the teeth are brushed. Because gingivitis usually doesn’t cause pain, many people don’t get the treatment they need.
- Periodontitis causes the gums to pull away from the teeth, leaving deep pockets where germs called bacteria can grow and damage the bone that supports the teeth. Gums can also shrink back from the teeth. This can make the teeth look longer. Teeth may become loose, fall out, or have to be pulled out by a dentist.What causes gum disease?Your mouth constantly makes a clear, sticky substance called plaque that contains bacteria. The bacteria in plaque make poisons, or toxins, that irritate the gums and cause the gum tissues to break down. If you don’t do a good job of removing plaque from your teeth, it can spread below the gums and damage the bone that supports the teeth. With time, the plaque hardens into a substance called tartar that has to be removed by a dentist.You are more likely to get gum disease if you
- Smoke or chew tobacco.
- Have someone in your family who has gum disease.
- Have a condition that makes it harder for your body to fight infection, such as:
- Uncontrolled diabetes, AIDS, or leukemia.
- A high level of stress.
- A poor diet that’s low in nutrientWhat are the symptoms?It may be hard to tell if you have a mild case of gum disease. Healthy gums are pink and firm, fit snugly around the teeth, and do not bleed easily. But mild cases of gum disease (gingivitis) cause:
- Gums that are red, swollen, and tender.
- Gums that bleed easily during brushing or flossing.
In more severe gum disease (periodontitis), the symptoms are easier to see, such as:
- Gums that pull away or shrink from the teeth.
- Bad breath(halitosis) that won’t go away.
- Pus coming from the gums.
- A change in how your teeth fit together when you bite.
- Loose teeth.How is gum disease diagnosed?To find out if you have gum disease, your dentist or dental hygienist will do an exam to look for:
- Bleeding gums.
- Hard buildups of plaque and tartar above and below the gums.
- Areas where your gums are pulling away or shrinking from your teeth.
- Pockets that have grown between your teeth and gums.
Why might I be susceptible?
Periodontal disease is the Number One cause of tooth loss amongst adults. This is because a certain number of people (15-20%) have immune systems that overreact to the bad bacteria in their mouths. When this overreaction occurs, the immune system attacks and breaks down the bone and tissue that surround the tooth. This destruction is not predictable and can occur sporadically. None of us knows if we are part of this 15-20% because we can’t usually feel or notice the onset of gum and bone (periodontal) disease. Both adults and children should be routinely checked for gum disease.
Keeping your gums in shape
Keep in mind that healthy gums DON’T BLEED. You are the key player on the hygiene team. If you don’t do the essential daily brushing and flossing, the rest of your dental team (the dentist and hygienist) may not necessarily turn the condition around. And sometimes with everyone fighting the good fight, stubborn plaque and bacteria will require some new maintenance techniques for battling gum infection.
GUM DISEASE IS NOT CURABLE,BUT IT IS TREATABLE,AND IN MOST CASES, CONTROLLABLE
Are you living at high risk for gum disease?
Smoking: Numerous studies have shown that smokers have more gum disease. Smokers have increased levels of tartar in the mouth, and experience more tissue irritation, which makes their gums more susceptible to disease. Smokers have more bone loss and heal less quickly than non-smokers.
Stress: When our immune system is stressed it is difficult to fight off the bacteria that cause gum infections.
Dental neglect: Avoiding the dentist is a lifestyle choice that puts you at risk of contracting diseases of the mouth, teeth and gums.
Floss: Your hygienist or dentist works to prevent infection in your mouth from entering the bloodstream and reaching vital organs.
Heart disease: Gum inflammation products and bacteria in gum disease can cause heart disease, and in some cases, double the risk of a fatal heart attack. In addition, bacteria from your mouth may combine with blood-clotting cells called platelets, forming heart-stopping blood clots.
Stroke: New studies show that 70% of the fatty deposits of stroke sufferers contain bacteria, of which 40% comes from the mouth.
Diabetics: This group of people are more likely to have gum disease than most people and gum disease makes it more difficult for diabetics to control their blood sugar.
Premature birth: Pregnant women who have periodontal disease may be as much as seven times more likely to have a baby born early. Some research suggests that gum disease may increase the level of hormones that induce labour.