Gum disease is swelling of gums that eventually affects the bone that supports your teeth. The bacteria in plaque forms a sticky colorless film on your teeth. If you do not have the habit of brushing and flossing regularly, the plaque not only infects your gums and teeth but eventually the gum tissue and bone. Though plague is considered the main reason for gum disease other factors such as consuming alcohol, chewing tobacco, malnutrition, smoking and even higher levels of stress. If left untreated, gum disease can loosen your tooth and even be removed by a dentist in case the problem becomes severe.
Stages of Gum Disease – Three stages are:
1. Gingivitis: The first stage of gum disease where the inflammation of gums is caused by plaque which builds up at the gum line. Gingivitis is caused when plaque produces toxins that irritates the gum tissue despite brushing and flossing. Your gums might bleed during brushing and flossing. The damage can be reversed at this stage because the bone and the tissues are still not affected. The factors contributing to gingivitis include diabetes, aging, genetic tendency, stress, inadequate nutrition, hormonal fluctuations, substance abuse, HIV infection and use of certain medication.
2. Periodontitis: When Gingivitis is left untreated it can develop to periodontitis. Plaque grows in the gum line. At this stage, the bone and fibers which supports the teeth are damaged and gums begin to form a pocket near the gum line which traps food and plaque. With the increase in damage, the pockets intensify, and more gum tissues and bone are damaged. Proper treatment and proper care at home can usually help prevent further damage.
There are many types of periodontitis. The most common types are:
- Aggressive Periodontitis – Familial aggregation or progressive attachment and bone loss are common features of aggressive periodontitis. This may even occur in people who may be clinically healthy.
- Chronic Periodontitis – This is the most commonly occurring periodontitis and is characterized by the formation of pockets in the gum line. It is a frequent problem with adults but can happen at any age. Attachment loss and bone loss is a slow process so if left untreated the advancement of the problem can develop quickly.
- Periodontitis as a Precursor of General Diseases – Conditions such as heart diseases, respiratory problems, and diabetes are associated with this form of periodontitis.
- Necrotizing or Flesh Eating Periodontal Disease – It is an infection caused by gingival tissues, alveolar bone and periodontal ligament. This problem can be observed in individuals with systemic conditions such as HIV infection, immunosuppression, and malnutrition.
3. Advanced Periodontitis: The final stage of gum disease is when the fibers and bone supporting your teeth are destroyed which can cause your teeth to become loose. With increased bacterial activity the periodontal pockets which are present in the gum line deepen leading to tooth decay and loss. The pockets are filled with pus which can be seen when the gums are pressed together. The swelling around the root leads to bone loss. The permanent teeth may lose support to the extent of falling out or being removed forever. This is the most advanced and irreversible stage of periodontitis which leads to tooth decay and loss of the tooth.
Prevention and Treatment of Gum Disease
Initially, gum disease can be reversed with proper brushing and flossing. Proper oral hygiene can restrict the building up of plaque in the gum line. Gum disease can be prevented by brushing twice a day and flossing or interdental cleaner once a day. Avoid smoking and consumption of tobacco and eating a balanced diet will prevent gum disease.
There are two types of treatment when it comes to gum disease.
Non-surgical Treatments for Gum Disease
1.Professional Dental Cleaning- Once you notice signs of gum disease, your dentist may ask you to opt for dental cleaning more than twice a year. Though dental cleaning is not a treatment for gum disease it is an important preventative measure that keeps plaque from building up.
2.Scaling and Root Planing- This procedure is done under a local anesthetic as it is a deep cleaning procedure with where plaque and tartar from above and below the gum line are scaled and rough spots on the tooth are smoothed.
Surgical Treatments for Gum Disease
1.Flap Surgery/ Pocket Reduction Surgery – The gums are lifted, and tartar is removed in this procedure. The damaged bones are smoothed to restrain areas where bacteria can hide. The method helps reduce the size of the space between gum and tooth. This procedure reduces the chances of serious health problems which may come along with periodontal disease.
2. Bone Grafts – In this procedure fragments of your bone, donated bone or synthetic bone is used to replace the bone destroyed by gum disease. This method of grafting serves as a platform for the bone to grow again which restores the steadiness of the teeth. Tissue engineering urges the body to regenerate bone and tissue very soon.
Gum disease is a severe oral disorder that needs to be taken care of at the earliest. Even if you may not notice signs you may still be suffering from some ‘silent gum disease’. To treat any form of oral disease especially something as serious as gum disease consulting a dentist is mandatory as it will ensure that you are in safe hands.
Shen Chao is part of Dr. Joshua Hong’s Smile Clinic. While working for the Smile Clinic, he’s gained first hand experiences into the questions and concerns that dental patients have. He has been writing to inform people about various dental topics to help his readers improve their oral health. When he’s not working, you can find him on a hiking trail with his dog or having a Sunday cook-out with friends.