Gum Disease

What are Gum Diseases?

There are two health conditions referred to as gum disease, periodontitis and gingivitis.

Both involve by an overgrowth of oral bacteria that take up residence between the gum tissue and the teeth. Failure to maintain good oral hygiene by brushing at least twice a day and flossing once a day is the leading cause, but hormonal changes and many illnesses also act as causes. Food deposits known as plaque harden into tartar to give bacteria a route for getting under the gum line. Gingivitis is less serious and is considered the first stage of periodontitis, but not all cases advance to that stage even without treatment.

What are the Symptoms of Gum Disease?

The earliest signs of gingivitis are redness of the gum margins between teeth, chronic bad breath, and bleeding when you brush. As early gum disease progresses into periodontitis, pain, swelling, gum recession, and eventually loose and lost teeth. This is a result of the permanent damage done to both the gum tissue of a socket and the bone of a tooth.

Gum Disease Causes

Gum disease is usually caused by poor oral hygiene. Plaque, which is a sticky substance made up of mucus, food debris and bacteria, naturally builds up on the teeth all the time. Brushing can remove plaque, and by brushing twice each day most people are able to manage plaque levels in the mouth to prevent complications. However, if plaque begins to build up on the teeth, the bacteria in it begins to cause irritation to the gums. This is mild gum disease known as gingivitis.

If left untreated, gingivitis can develop into more serious gum disease known as periodontitis. In these cases, the gums become so inflamed that they begin to pull away from the teeth. This creates pockets around the teeth which are highly susceptible to infection. This infection can then spread below the gum line.

As the body attempts to fight off the infection, the gums are gradually destroyed. If the condition is left to progress, the bones and other tissues which support the teeth also break down, often leading to tooth loss.

How is Gum Disease Treated?

Gingivitis usually resolves easily with routine cleanings from a hygienist and better home oral health habits.

Waiting until periodontitis sets in complicates treatment and recovery. Scaling and root planing is used first to scrape tartar deposits from under the gum tissue. This is followed with one of many different antibiotic treatments to eradicate the infestation deep in the sockets. Finally, medications and surgical treatments are used to tighten up the pockets that formed around the tooth roots due to the bacterial toxins. If you catch the problem in time, your oral health will return before you lose teeth. Waiting until teeth are loose reduces the chances that you can entirely avoid tooth loss, even with advanced treatments.

Gum Disease Prevention

Adopting a good oral hygiene routine is the most vital step for prevention of gum disease. Brush teeth at least twice each day and do not rinse toothpaste from the mouth afterwards, as the fluoride in toothpaste helps to protect teeth. You should also floss once each day to remove plaque from in between the teeth.

Certain factors can increase the risk of gum disease; smoking is one of them. Those who smoke should try to quit as soon as possible.

People with certain illnesses, like diabetes, AIDS and cancer are more susceptible to gum disease. In women, hormonal changes, such as going through puberty or pregnancy, can make gums more sensitive and increase the risk of gum disease. These people should, therefore, take extra care over their oral hygiene routine.

Last Reviewed:
September 13, 2016
Last Updated:
December 29, 2017
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