What is gum disease?
Also known as periodontal disease, gum disease is an infection of the tissues that hold your teeth in place. The culprit for this disease is usually poor brushing and flossing habits. These poor habits allow plaque – a sticky film of bacteria – to build up on the teeth and harden. If the disease worsens, it can lead to sore, bleeding gums, painful chewing problems, and even tooth loss.
Our mouths are full of bacteria. These bacteria help to form plaque on our teeth. Brushing and flossing help to get rid of plaque. The plaque that is not removed by these practices hardens and forms “tartar” that brushing doesn’t clean. This tartar can only be removed by a dentist or dental hygienist.
There are risk factors for gum disease, but smoking is the most significant. Other risk factors include hormonal changes in women, diabetes, and medications that lessen the flow of saliva.
If you think you may be suffering from gum disease, here are some symptoms to look for:
- Bad breath that won’t go away
- Red or swollen gums
- Tender or bleeding gums
- Painful chewing
- Loose teeth
- Sensitive teeth
- Receding gums or longer appearing teeth
Severe Gum Disease
Periodontitis is a serious gum infection that damages the soft tissue and destroys the bone that supports your teeth. This infection can cause teeth to loosen, or in some cases, even lead to tooth loss. Periodontitis may be common, but fortunately, it is largely preventable. This infection is typically the result of poor oral hygiene – mainly poor brushing and flossing habits.
Simply brushing at least twice a day, flossing daily, and getting regular dental checkups can help to reduce your chances of developing periodontitis.
There are certain symptoms of periodontitis for which you should be on the lookout. Healthy gums are firm and pale pink and fit snugly around the teeth. If you are suffering from periodontitis, you may have:
- Swollen or puffy gums
- Bright red, dusky red or purplish gums
- Gums that feel tender when touched
- Gums that bleed easily
- Gums that pull away from your teeth (recede), making your teeth look longer than normal
- New spaces developing between your teeth
- Pus between your teeth and gums
- Bad breath
- Loose teeth
- Painful chewing
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
Additionally, there are several different types of periodontitis. The more common types are below:
- Chronic periodontitis is the most common type, affecting mostly adults, though children can be affected, too. This type is caused by plaque buildup and involves slow deterioration that may improve and get worse over time but causes destruction in the gums and bone and loss of teeth if not treated.
- Aggressive periodontitis usually begins in childhood or early adulthood and affects only a small number of people. It tends to affect families and causes rapid progression of bone and tooth loss if untreated.
- Necrotizing periodontal disease is characterized by the death of gum tissue, tooth ligaments and supporting bone caused by lack of blood supply (necrosis), resulting in severe infection. This type generally occurs in people with a suppressed immune system — such as from HIV infection, cancer treatment or other causes — and malnutrition.
If you notice any symptoms of periodontitis, you should schedule an appointment with your dental professional immediately. If left untreated, periodontitis can lead to tooth loss, so do not ignore seeking professional help if you think you may have this infection. A dental professional will have both the tools and knowledge to examine and diagnose if there is an issue as well as prescribe a method of treatment.