Gum disease is a painful and irritating condition that affects almost 48 percent of Americans. It is caused by a buildup of bacteria that turns into plaque if left to sit on the teeth for too long. If brushing and flossing are neglected, plaque can quickly build up on the surfaces of teeth, eventually hardening into a substance called tartar. This excess bacteria in the mouth can find its way into the gum tissue and even slip below the gum line, affecting the integrity of bones and tooth structures in the mouth over time.
Three Stages of Gum Disease
There are three characteristic stages of gum disease, each becoming progressively worse.
1. Gingivitis is the simple inflammation of gum tissue in the mouth due to excess bacteria and plaque buildup on teeth. By itself, gingivitis does not cause excessive damage to the gums and teeth. If left untreated or unchecked, however, it can lead to a more progressive form of gum disease known as periodontal disease.
2. Periodontal disease is the second stage of gum disease. During this stage, damage to soft tissues in the mouth becomes so extensive that the bacteria begin to affect bones and teeth. At this stage, some people begin to lose bone material in the jaw, leading to a loosening of teeth and eventually, tooth loss.
While common, periodontitis is largely preventable. Committing to daily oral care and seeing a dentist for preventative care on a regular basis are key elements in the treatment and prevention of this condition.
3. Advanced periodontitis is the most serious stage of gum disease. At this stage, infection is present in both soft tissue and bone. Teeth may be missing, and there may be several pockets or gaps in between teeth and gums that can cause complications with biting, talking, and chewing. It may be difficult to eat, drink, or even carry on a conversation, and medical intervention is necessary in several stages to ensure that the mouth can become reasonably healthy once more.
How Will I Know if I Have Gum Disease?
Gum disease can occur in people of all ages, but it is most common in adults. If it is detected in the early stages of development, it is highly treatable. Having a dentist look for the following signs and symptoms will reduce the likelihood of future complications:
- Red, puffy, or swollen gums
- Gums that bleed when brushing or flossing
- Receding gums, “long” looking teeth
- Pockets of missing gum tissue or holes in the gums
- Changes in bite
- Presence of pus in and around the gum line
- Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth
How is gum disease treated?
Early stages of gum disease can improve with brushing, flossing, and regular trips to the dentist. The only way to completely remove tartar and plaque buildup is to undergo a professional cleaning with a dental specialist. Your dentist will scale or clean your teeth, removing layers of buildup and debris that are causing damage to your teeth.
If you have an advanced form of gum disease, root planing may be necessary. This involves smoothing out the roots along the gum line to make it more difficult for plaque to develop. More advanced cases of gum disease will require surgical intervention such as tooth extraction, bone grafting, and implants to restore oral health and aesthetics.
For gums that have already receded, there are some effective treatment options available. Flap surgery, for instance, is used to remove excess plaque in the gum tissue. A dentist will secure the gums after plaque removal to ensure that infection cannot reoccur in that area of the mouth.
A gum graft becomes necessary when gums have receded to the point where there is not enough tissue to support and protect the roots of the teeth. A dentist will remove gum tissue from elsewhere in the mouth and use it to fortify areas of weakness or deficiency.
Bonding is the use of a gum-colored resin that covers and protects the roots of teeth so that healing can take place.
After these procedures, it is essential that you maintain a proper at-home oral health routine to prevent gum disease from reoccurring once more.
An ounce of prevention…..
You’ve probably heard the saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. This is especially true when it comes to your dental health. Proactive oral health practices at home and early detection at your dentist’s office are key to preventing and reversing painful gum disease symptoms. Here is what you can do in partnership with a knowledgeable dental health professional:
1. Brush and floss
Brush at least twice a day with an ADA-approved toothpaste containing fluoride and floss daily to remove excess debris from in between and around your teeth. Use a mouth rinse to remove even more debris from your mouth after eating and drinking.
2. Eat a healthy diet
Eating a diet rich in whole grains, fresh produce, and quality protein will help to improve your oral health. Avoid excessively starchy, sugary, and acidic foods, as they cause plaque buildup and erosion of the teeth that can lead to bacteria buildup and decay.
3. Avoid cigarettes and smokeless tobacco
Studies have shown that those who smoke are four times as likely to develop gum disease. Furthermore, the use of these toxic chemicals contributes to the development of oral cancers and other health problems. Cutting out this undesirable habit will help to improve not only your oral health but your overall health as well.
4. Practice preventative care
Seeing your dentist on a regular basis will help prevent serious issues and allow you to enjoy good long-term oral health. Your dentist will be able to properly diagnose and treat any problems that may come up and will work with you to restore and protect the health of your mouth.
A diagnosis of gum disease is serious, but it’s not necessarily the end of the world. Modern dentistry offers many effective solutions to this common oral health problem. To learn more about treatment and prevention options, contact the offices of Dr. John Paul Gallardo to schedule a dental exam. Dr. Gallardo is a periodontal specialist, offering state-of-the-art treatments in addition to cleanings, oral surgery, and dental restorations. Call Dr. Gallardo’s Miami office at 305-547-8687 today to make an appointment.