What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is when the tissue and bone holding your teeth in place gets infected. It’s a common condition that affects nearly half of adults aged 30 or older in the U.S. Without treatment, gum disease can lead to tooth loss, cardiovascular issues, and more, so it’s crucial to be aware of the symptoms.
Stages of Gum Disease
The beginning stage of gum disease is known as gingivitis. During this stage, the gums will become red and swollen and can bleed easily. This is the milder form of gum disease that can be combatted by daily brushing and flossing, as well as regular cleanings by a dentist.
However, if gingivitis is left untreated, it may progress to periodontitis. At this point, the gums pull away from the teeth and form pockets that can easily become infected. If periodontitis goes untreated, it can destroy the surrounding bones, gums, and connective tissue in your mouth.
How it Develops
The gum tissue around your teeth can get infected by bacteria that will cause inflammation, bleeding, and discomfort. If the bacteria are left long enough on your teeth, they’ll become plaque and harden into a sticky substance known as tartar, or calculus. This build-up can spread to below the gum line, which then makes it impossible to remove unless you get a special cleaning by a dentist.
If any of the following conditions apply to you, you could be at a higher risk than most for gum disease:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Crooked teeth
- Underlying immune deficiencies—e.g., AIDS
- Fillings that have become defective
- Taking medications that cause dry mouth
- Bridges that no longer fit properly
- Female hormonal changes, such as with pregnancy or the use of oral contraceptives
How to Prevent and Treat Gum Disease
The best way to prevent gingivitis and stop it from getting worse is to practice good oral hygiene habits. Make sure to brush your teeth and floss every day, in addition to scheduling regular checkups and cleanings with your dentist.
Once you confirm that you have gum disease, there are a number of options for treatment. Deep cleanings are common, allowing us to get straight to the root of the problem and remove it at its source. We can also offer medicinal options and corrective surgery if the situation requires it. Dr. Conder will be able to talk you through the different routes you can take to help you choose the path that works best for you.
Frequently Asked Questions About Gum Disease
If you find yourself experiencing any of the following symptoms, we recommend giving us a call and scheduling a checkup to determine if you’re at risk:
- Red, swollen, or tender gums
- Bleeding while brushing, flossing, or when eating certain foods
- Gums that are receding or pulling away from the teeth, causing the teeth to look longer than before
- Loose or separating teeth
- Pus between your gums and teeth
- Sores in your mouth
- Persistent bad breath
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- A change in the fit of partial dentures
Research has shown there may be a connection between periodontal disease and both diabetes and cardiovascular disease. If you’re at risk for either of these conditions, please make sure to let us know. For more information on the connection between heart disease and gum disease, as well as the connection between gum disease and other systemic conditions, follow these links.
Children and adolescents are at a much lower risk of developing periodontal disease, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Keep an eye out for symptoms and make sure your child is practicing good oral hygiene habits, since taking care of their teeth early on can help prevent problems such as gum disease in the future. Your dentist should also be made aware of any history of gum disease in the family, as genetics can play a role in the early development of the condition.