The majority of adults in the US have some form of gum disease, according the Centers for Disease Control. A number of factors contribute to a person’s risk for developing gum disease. Some of the leading causes of the condition include using tobacco or smoking and having poor oral hygiene habits. Without treatment, gum disease can cause you to lose your teeth and can contribute to a range of other health problems, such as heart disease.
The condition progresses in stages. In the earliest stage, it’s known as gingivitis. Understanding what gingivitis is and what can happen if it’s not treated is important for keeping your mouth in the best shape possible.
Gingivitis develops when you have plaque buildup on your teeth and gums. Plaque is a film made of sugars and bacteria. When it stays on the teeth, it hardens into tartar, which can only be removed by a dentist. The plaque and tartar buildup on the teeth and gums can irritate and inflame the gums, leading to gingivitis.
Signs of Gingivitis
Since gingivitis occurs when your gums are irritated, common signs of it include redness in the gums, swelling and tenderness, and bleeding when you brush or floss. While some people do feel discomfort at this stage, it’s also fairly common for people not to feel any pain or discomfort due to gingivitis.
What to Do
Taking action is a good idea if you notice signs of gingivitis. One of the best things you can do is schedule an appointment with your dentist or with a periodontist. The dentist can take a look at your gums and confirm the gingivitis.
He will then clean the gums and teeth thoroughly, scraping away the hardened tartar and removing plaque. How long the deep cleaning takes depends on how much tartar has built up. The cleaning may be uncomfortable if your gums are very tender.
Getting in the habit of taking care of your teeth and gums at home is a must to help treat gingivitis and to keep it from recurring. Your dentist will usually give you pointers on proper at-home oral care, such as brushing at least twice daily, flossing everyday and using a fluoride toothpaste.
Once you’ve seen your dentist and had your gingivitis treated, it’s important to return for regular checkups. Seeing your dentist every six months or so will give you both the peace of mind that your mouth is in good shape or allow you to fix any gum problems before they develop further.
Sometimes, you may have good oral care habits at home, but an issue with your teeth impacts your ability to do a really good job cleaning them. For example, if you have a crown that doesn’t quite fit, it can be difficult to really floss around it or to get all of the food particles and plaque out of it. If that’s the case, your dentist might recommend replacing the crown or installing an implant and crown so that you can brush better.
What Happens If It’s Not Treated
Gingivitis is fully reversible if it’s caught early enough. If you don’t take steps to treat it, though, it can progress to periodontitis, a more severe form of gum disease. When you have periodontitis, the gums starts to separate from the teeth, creating pockets where bacteria can grow and thrive. Your body’s immune response tries to get rid of the bacteria. But, in many cases, the immune response leads to the break down of the supporting bone, which can lead to tooth loss.
Treatment for periodontitis depends on how far it’s progressed. For some patients, a deep cleaning that involves scaling and root planing may be sufficient. Your periodontist may prescribe medication to kill of any bacteria in the mouth, too.
If your gum disease has started to affect the bone, you may need surgery. Periodontal surgery techniques include gum grafting, tissue regeneration and pocket reduction. Some techniques, such as tissue regeneration, are more advanced than others and provide a more sophisticated way to treat the disease.
If you think you have gingivitis, the best thing you can do is take action right away. Dr. John Gallardo provide a number of gum disease treatment options in the Miami area. Schedule an appointment at their practice by calling (305) 447-1447 today.