You may have heard a lot about Gum Disease and the importance of healthy gums. You might have even heard that gum disease can affect your heart and cardiovascular health. But if you're like many, you may still wonder what exactly gum disease is, how you get it, and what you need to look for.
At its core, gum disease is an infection of the tissues that surround and support your teeth. This includes the pink gums and the bone in your jaw. It is a major cause of tooth loss in adults because when the gums and jaw bone become infected, they can't hold on to the teeth anymore. And since gum disease is often painless when it first develops, you may not know you have it until teeth start to become loose, which is often too late.
Look for these 7 signs that indicate you have gum disease.
Early stage gum disease is referred to as Gingivitis, and the gums will appear red and swollen, be tender to the touch, and bleed easily. Common causes of gingivitis are poor brushing, or not brushing after having foods that stick to teeth like candy or crackers and bread, and plaque accumulation around orthodontic brackets. It is also common in children and adolescents and pregnant mothers due to hormonal changes. At this stage, the disease is still reversible and there is no bone loss around the teeth. A visit with your hygienist combined with improved daily home care is usually all that is needed to correct gingivitis.
Later stage gum disease is called Periodontitis and is characterized by bone loss around the teeth in addition to signs seen with gingivitis. Persistent bad breath, bad tastes, and loose teeth are typical signs first noticed with the onset of periodontitis. It is a slowly progressing condition, and may take years to develop. Common causes include prolonged poor oral hygiene, crooked teeth, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption. At this point, the bone loss that has occurred may be corrected with surgery and bone grafting procedures, however improved oral hygiene, correction of any crowding, and cessation of smoking and alcohol consumption are mandatory for long-term success.
Aggressive Periodontitis is a highly destructive form of periodontal disease that progresses quickly. There is rapid bone loss around the teeth and associated gum recession. This form often is painful with a constant dull ache. Aggressive periodontitis typically affects the whole mouth in patients that have systemic medical conditions, like uncontrolled diabetes or being immunocompromised. In patients who are otherwise healthy, aggressive periodontitis may affect only one area of the mouth or around a single tooth. Management includes a combination of surgical and non-surgical treatments in the dental office, along with management of any systemic disease by the physician.
Remember, you don't have to lose teeth to gum disease. Good dental care begin at home with regular brushing at least twice a day, eating a balanced diet, and taking any medications needed to control any systemic medical conditions. Regular dental visits are also needed, so any changes in bone loss, infection, or gum tissue can be identified as early as possible.