Gum disease is an infection of the gums and is usually caused by poor dental hygiene, but illnesses, medications and a history of family dental issues can also make some people more susceptible to gum and oral health complications. Periodontitis (the scientific name for gum disease) is often confused with gingivitis, which is an inflammation of the gums, but not all cases of gingivitis progress to periodontitis. However, if untreated, gingivitis can become periodontitis. The main causes of both gum inflammation and gum disease include:
- A buildup of plaque on the teeth and gums. The bacteria in plaque contains toxins that cause inflammation and infection. Plaque buildup is usually caused by lax dental habits, including incorrect or infrequent brushing, not flossing and not having regular checkups.
- Medication. Some medications are associated with gum disease and inflammations as they reduce the flow of saliva which helps to protect teeth and gums by removing food debris.
- Illness. Severe illnesses that interfere with the immune system, like cancer, hepatitis, diabetes and HIV, put people at higher risk of infections, including dental infections.
What Are The Symptoms Of Gum Disease?
The onset of gum disease isn’t always apparent, which is why regular oral health checkups at your local dental specialist are vital to keeping your teeth and gums healthy and identifying the symptoms of periodontitis as early on as possible. These symptoms include:
- Swollen, aggravated, red or bleeding gums
- Pain while chewing or drinking
- Receding gums
- Sensitive teeth
- Bad breath
If you have gum disease, you may also find that the teeth in the infected area feel loose. This is because periodontitis is an infection of the tissue that holds the teeth in place. This also explains why the ‘pockets’ that surround your teeth widen and deepen, trapping food and putting you at risk of further infection.
Depending on the severity of the infection, your dental specialist may need to refer you to a periodontist (a specialist in gum disease diagnosis and treatment) for treatment. This is only for severe cases, so to avoid a situation in which a surgical procedure like a bone graft or pocket reduction surgery is required, if you notice any of the symptoms of gum disease, book a checkup at your local dentist.
Gum Disease Treatment
The primary objective with gum disease treatment is controlling the infection and preventing it from spreading. Antibiotics may be prescribed and non-surgical procedures that your local dentist may use to treat periodontitis include:
- Dental cleaning. Treating gum disease usually involves removing plaque and tartar (a buildup of plaque that’s hardened) from the teeth and below the gumline.
- Scaling and root planing. This is a more advanced teeth cleaning and scaling (removing tartar buildup) procedure that also involves ‘planing’ (smoothing) rough spots on the root of the tooth to provide the gums with a clean surface to reattach to.