Gum disease is an exceedingly common oral health problem and is estimated to affect more than half of the U.S. population. Unfortunately, since it is very easy to ignore in the earliest stages of the condition, it is often fairly advanced by the time it is diagnosed which means that irreversible damage to your oral health may have already occurred.
While gum disease may be unpleasant and have significant consequences for your teeth and general health, it can be treated, and even prevented entirely.
What is gum disease?
Gum disease is an inflammatory oral condition that is caused by the invasion of bacteria-laden plaque into the soft tissue of the gums. When this happens, the gums become sore and swollen and may start to bleed when you brush your teeth which at this stage, it is often known as gingivitis. Since the symptoms are usually fairly mild, they can be easily overlooked and ignored. However, if treatment isn’t sought soon enough, the condition can progress and become much more severe.
Symptoms of gum disease
There are many symptoms of gum disease that tend to worsen as the condition worsens. Some signs to look out for include:
Red, swollen and tender gums
Gums that bleed when you brush your teeth, floss or eat particularly hard food
Teeth that look elongated as a result of gum tissue receding
Pus between your gums and teeth
Persistently bad breath
Sores in your mouth
Teeth that seem loose
A change in the way that your teeth come together or in the way that your partial denture fits
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to schedule an appointment with your dentist so that your teeth and gum health can be professionally assessed.
What happens if gum disease isn’t treated?
If gum disease isn’t treated at the gingivitis stage, not only can the symptoms and effects of the condition can get much worse, but your general health could also be at risk. Studies have shown that there is an irrefutable link between periodontitis and the development of serious and chronic health problems including, but not limited to, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, liver and kidney disorders, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and some forms of cancer.
How to treat gum disease
If you are suffering from gum disease, there are a number of different treatments that may be able to help you. Which is right for you will depend on your individual circumstances and the severity of your periodontitis. Some of the most commonly recommended treatments include:
- Scale and polish- A scale and polish is usually one of the first procedures that will be recommended if you have gum disease. The process involves your dentist scraping away plaque and tartar from your teeth using special instruments so that the progression of gum disease can be halted. Your dentist will then polish your teeth to remove any other debris and stains which will leave your teeth looking and feeling clean and healthy.
- Tooth scaling and root planing- This process takes the scale and polish procedure up a notch since it also involves cleaning the periodontal pockets, which are the small gaps that open up between your teeth and gums as a result of periodontitis. In some instances, your dentist may place antibiotic fibers into these pockets to eradicate any infection, which are then removed about a week later. Your dentist will then smooth all of the rough areas on the root of the affected tooth so that it is harder for plaque and tartar to form there.
In addition to the treatment that your dentist provides, it is crucial that you take responsibility for your oral health at home to help prevent periodontal disease from occurring or progressing. This means following a robust oral hygiene routine that includes brushing, flossing and using mouthwash as well as visiting your dentist regularly.
If you are concerned that you may be suffering from gum disease and would like more information or to arrange an appointment for an assessment of your oral health, please do not hesitate to get in touch.