What is gum disease?
Gum disease is a general term for several types of dental infections that can lead to loss of teeth and other serious problems. During its early stages, gum disease can be dealt with quite easily, but if it is left to progress unchecked, it can be difficult to treat. Around half of the adult population will suffer from a form of gum disease at some point in their lives, making it a very common illness. It is mostly caused by not properly brushing or cleaning the teeth, but certain types can flair up on their own due to hormonal changes or lifestyle choices. Dentists at the Pearl Dental Clinic would be able to advise you on your personal risk of gum disease and the best way to avoid it, give them a call to set up an appointment if you’re looking for more information on the topic.
What are the different types of gum disease?
There are three main kinds of gum disease, representing various stages of decay and infection in the mouth.
Gingivitis – Plaque is the chief cause of gingivitis, its sticky yellow film is built up from food debris and bacterial waste that is left to eat into the surface of the teeth. Without regular cleaning to keep the level of bacteria under control, the plaque will start to irritate the gums, causing them to become red and inflamed. Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease, if you notice any bleeding or swelling in your gums, it’s time to take a trip to the dentist and commit to a better cleaning routine, otherwise the condition will progress.
Periodontitis – Without treatment, gingivitis will develop into Periodontitis. The deteriorating gums start to recede from the teeth, leaving holes that where even more plaque can develop. If you allow your situation to reach this stage, you will notice that your teeth are more sensitive than they used to be, and may even come loose, this is because the receding gums are no longer properly protecting the roots or stabilising the teeth. At this point, even if you do visit the dental surgery, there’s very little your dentist can do to reverse the effects, but they may be able to provide you with some antibiotics and advice on how better to care for your teeth, as well as pointing you in the direction of dental fixtures or implants to replace damaged teeth.
Further on from this, the disease will spread to the bones and lead to tooth loss after a few years – something which is very difficult to treat. As the jaw bone breaks down, the whole shape of your face is changed, which will affect eating, talking, and of course, your appearance.
Acute Necrotising Ulcerative Gingivitis (ANUG) – Better known by its rather nauseating nickname ‘trench mouth’, ANUG is a very painful infection thought to be caused by fusiform bacteria and spirochetes – although the exact origins are somewhat unclear. Swelling and ulceration of the gums are both symptoms of the disease, as well as dead tissue sloughing off due to severe infection. It’s not a pleasant experience for those unlucky enough to suffer from it, but there are antibiotics that can help fight the bacteria and stop the spread of the disease.
What gum disease symptoms should I look out for?
Gum disease can be a tricky thing to deal with, primarily because it’s not always clear that there is an infection from the start. There may not be any pain or other symptoms at all; this is why it’s important to visit the dentist on a regular basis.
There are some changes you can look out for, to alert you of the first signs of disease;
Bleeding gums – Although this sounds painful, it’s often the case that your gums can bleed without you even noticing. Keep an eye out for any blood whilst brushing your teeth; you could be exhibiting early signs of gingivitis.
Inflamed gums – This points to periodontitis, the second and more serious stage of gum disease. It might also be accompanied by a bad taste in your mouth, bad breath, and unstable teeth that are displaying a heightened sensitivity.
Abscesses and ulcers – You probably don’t need to be told that these are not meant to be there; they develop quickly and are normally very painful. Throbbing ulcers and swollen abscesses on the gums are a sure sign of ANUG; they can lead to receding of gums and a general feeling of ill health.
If you think you recognise any of these symptoms, it’s vital that you get to the dentist straight away to stop the disease in its tracks. Your dentist will examine your teeth and look over your medical history, in order to determine the best course of action. In most instances, gingivitis can be diagnosed from a quick inspection of the mouth, but more advanced cases may require an x-ray or a periodontal probe – this is to measure the area between gums and teeth to see if any recession has occurred that may point to periodontitis.
What causes gum disease?
Most adults that develop gum disease will admit to a lax attitude to oral hygiene, years of not brushing or properly cleaning their teeth will undoubtedly have adverse effects. The build-up of plaque, which eventually hardens and turns into tartar, causes acids, bacterium and other waste to be held against the teeth and gums, a perfect environment for the spread of infection. Periodontal pockets that develop during the later stages of disease are caused by the inflammation of the gums, which makes them pull away from the teeth and start to recede. The best way to avoid gum disease is to take good care of your teeth and look out for any changes in the colour or feel of your gums. Regular dental check-ups will help you catch any infection before it gets hold too aggressively, and will help you develop a better oral cleaning regime.
Failing to adequately clean your teeth is the main cause of gum disease, but it is also more prevalent in smokers and diabetics, and can occasionally occur in patients who are undergoing hormonal changes – such as puberty or pregnancy.