Gum Disease Fact Sheet
Gum disease affects nearly half of all American adults and it can become very serious. While it begins as a mildly irritating problem, it can cost you your teeth and compromise your oral health if left untreated. By understanding gum disease, you’ll appreciate how serious it can be and why it’s important to seek treatment at its offset.
What Causes Gum Disease?
While cavities occur when plaque attracts bacteria that feeds on the sugars in your teeth, the problem is similar for gum disease, except it pertains to the plaque that seeps down into your gum line. As this area becomes more infected, the infection spreads, resulting in red, irritated gum tissue throughout your mouth. Ultimately, the problem can become so bad that it puts you at risk for heart disease, stroke, and other life-threatening problems.
Common Symptoms of Gum Disease
Since early treatment is so vital in cases of gum disease, it’s crucial to recognize the symptoms:
- Chronic bad breath
- Inflamed gums
- Receding gums
- Gum pockets and abscesses
- Misaligned teeth
- Gums that are sensitive and bleed easily
- Weakened and loose teeth
- Swollen gums
Three Stages of Gum Disease
It’s important to know that gum disease can show very different symptoms depending on which stage it’s in. These symptoms can vary greatly from mild irritation to complete tooth loss, so it’s absolutely vital to treat it at the first sign of the disease. Here are the three stages of gum disease in order of least to most severe:
Gingivitis is the mildest stage of gum disease and it’s characterized by gums that are sensitive, red, and swollen. For the most part, symptoms at this stage will be mildly irritating rather than damaging, but if left untreated, the gum disease can quickly spread to other parts of the mouth.
When gum disease spreads to periodontitis it means the infected pockets have spread throughout the gums and increased in severity. At this stage, the tissue holding the teeth in place may have suffered permanent damage, and previous symptoms have become more intense.
At the most severe stage of gum disease, permanent damage to your gums and tooth loss are likely to occur. Non-surgical methods may not be enough to stop the problem at this point, and surgeries such as gum grafting may be necessary.
Treatments for Gum Disease
When patients show up with bad cases of gum disease, there are standard treatments that are typically meant to combat the problem. Depending on the specific patient, any or all of these may be used:
Scaling and Root Planing
Since the main cause of gum disease is plaque and bacteria on the teeth, a scaling and root planing treatment is ideal because it’s designed to completely remove this debris. Also referred to as a deep cleaning, scaling and root planing is a treatment in which plaque is completely removed from the teeth all the way down to the root. This treatment is frequently used as part of treatment for the first two stages of gum disease.
Various medications can greatly affect the rate of gum disease in both positive and negative ways. The production of bacteria can be boosted or decreased along with hormonal changes, so anything that causes significant hormonal imbalances can upset your gum disease. In it’s severe stages, the right medication can be a crucial method for reducing the problem.
When the gums are damaged beyond repair, surgery may be necessary to help the patient make a complete recovery. Gum grafting is one of the main surgeries often used to help restore patient’s gums after advanced periodontitis. Gum grafting involves taking gum tissue from a healthy part of the mouth and placing it in a damaged area so it will grow and restore the gums.
Stop Gum Disease Before It Becomes a Problem
Gum disease isn’t a very disruptive problem if you catch it as gingivitis, but once it advances, you make yourself vulnerable to more severe symptoms and permanent damage. By simply keeping your oral care habits consistent at home and attending your biannual dental appointments with Dr. Kovacevic, you’ll be doing everything necessary to prevent the disease. Contact us today if you think you may have a case of gum disease and we’ll begin treatment.