What You Need to Know About Gum Disease

Gum disease is one of the major causes of tooth loss in adults. When the plaque reaches under the gum line, it can cause gingivitis, an infection of the gum tissue around the neck of teeth. Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease and still reversible, but if it is left untreated, it can spread further throughout the gums and to the bone tissue. Periodontitis is this advanced stage of gum disease and can result in tissue, bone, and tooth loss. Learn more about the risk factors of periodontal disease, the symptoms of it, and how it is treated.

Risk Factors

Several factors can increase the risk of developing gum disease; some of which can be controlled while others cannot. These risk factors include:

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Chewing or smoking tobacco
  • Conditions that weaken the immune system (diabetes, cancer, HIV/AIDS)
  • Crooked teeth or poorly fitted dental restorations
  • Hormonal changes (menopause, pregnancy, use of contraceptives)
  • Poor diet
  • Medications (steroids, cancer therapy drugs, some anti-epilepsy drugs)
  • Old age
  • Genes

Symptoms

It can actually be difficult to tell if you have gum disease because it is usually painless. However, some symptoms you can look out for include:

  • Gums that bleed easily (especially after brushing and flossing)
  • Red, tender, or swollen gums
  • Gums that pull away from the teeth
  • Bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth
  • Teeth that are loose or separating
  • Changes in the way your teeth fit when you bite down

Treatment

It is important to treat gum disease as soon as possible to prevent the damage from becoming too extensive. Treatments can include:

  • Professional cleaning, followed by your daily brushing and flossing routine (only works if gum disease is still in the gingivitis stage)
  • Dental scaling to remove plaque and tartar
  • Root planing to smooth the tooth root surface (preventing bacteria and tartar buildup)
  • Antibiotics which help to control the infection
  • Flap surgery, tissue and bone grafts, or tissue regeneration for very advanced stages of periodontitis