Gum disease is one of the more common health problems but with a little help, it is preventable.
Gum disease affects most people at some stage in their life but signs of gum disease are most common in adult patients. It is caused by infrequent or incorrect brushing and flossing which results in plaque build-up on tooth surfaces, between teeth and under the gumline. Symptoms occur when bacteria in the plaque produce toxins that irritate gum tissue, causing gum tenderness, inflammation and pain.
The early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. While gingivitis is the milder form of gum disease, gums still become red, swollen and can bleed easily. It affects the surface layers of the gum, particularly where the gum meets the tooth. At this stage, there is no damage to the deeper parts of the gums, teeth or bone. Fortunately, with immediate and proper care, this type of gum disease is completely reversible.
The symptoms of gingivitis include:
- bleeding and sore gums
- painful to brush teeth or eat
- gums that are red, puffy or bleed
In cases of acute gingivitis, more severe symptoms occur. If the gum disease is allowed to progress, gum infection will occur, accompanied by a tendency to bleed during brushing.
When gingivitis is not treated, it can advance to periodontitis and this is a much more severe stage of gum disease. In periodontitis, the gums pull away from the teeth and form pockets which easily become infected forcing the body’s immune system to fight the bacteria as the plaque spreads and grows below the gumline.
If not treated, the bones, gums, and tissue that support the teeth are destroyed by the ongoing inflammation. The teeth may eventually become loose and either fall out or have to be removed.
The symptoms of periodontitis include:
- bleeding and swollen gums
- bad breath that won’t go away
- painful chewing and tenderness when biting
- receding gums (the gum line shrinks)
- loose teeth
However, it’s important to recognise that periodontitis may occur without visible symptoms.
Early Periodontitis: may be associated with tooth sensitivity, throbbing or tightness may be felt in the gum tissue. Periodontal disease can, however, progress slowly without any visible signs or symptoms.
Moderate Periodontitis: may cause loosening of the teeth, and an intensification and an increased incidence of early periodontal symptoms.
Advanced Periodontitis: is associated with gum recession, root decay, pus between teeth and gums, and loosening or loss of teeth.
Gingivitis is a completely reversible condition. With your dentist’s guidance and proper oral health care, you can manage symptoms and slowly recover your oral health.
Although the effects of this periodontitis may be irreversible, the disease’s progress can be halted and controlled, it is important for your dental professional to examine you regularly for increased gum pocket depths. Proper brushing and flossing, and use of an antibacterial and anti-plaque rinse combined with a plaque-fighting toothpaste help inhibit the plaque build-up that causes gingivitis.