One of the leading causes of tooth loss in adults is periodontal disease, more commonly known as gum disease. Gum disease occurs in two stages: gingivitis, which is defined as inflammation of the gums, and periodontitis, in which gum tissue starts detaching from the teeth. Technically, gingivitis is the initial inflammatory stage of periodontitis, which is the actual gum disease.
Gingivitis to Periodontitis
Gum disease is caused by plaque and bacteria buildup in the gums. This buildup causes the gums to swell and become irritated, which can cause pain and bleeding. At this point, the disease is classified as gingivitis. So far, the teeth are still firmly in place, and no irreversible damage has been done.
Eventually, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis. This occurs when the inner layer of gum tissue and bone starts to come free from the teeth. This causes the gum line to recede and leave a pocket between the tooth and the tissue. Food and debris can build up in this pocket, creating a haven for bacteria. As bacteria levels increase, the body’s immune system works to combat the infection. Substances from both the bacteria and the enzymes the body uses to fight infections wear away at the bone and tissue holding the tooth in place, and eventually it comes loose.
The symptoms for gum disease are usually very subtle, so it can be difficult to determine on your own whether you have it. Some of the more common symptoms include:
- Redness or swelling of the gums
- Bleeding, especially when brushing
- Pain in the gums, such as while chewing
- Bad breath
- Receding gums
- Pockets between teeth and gums
- Change in the way teeth or dentures fit together
- Sensitive teeth
These symptoms can be easy to miss and may be mistaken for other issues. For example, bleeding won’t have a very dramatic effect on the color of your spit, and if you do happen to notice any pink after brushing, you might dismiss it as a result of being too aggressive with your toothbrush. Also, gum disease might only occur in certain places for some people, making it even harder to detect.
If you do notice any of these symptoms, the safest route is to visit your dentist as soon as you can. There, your dentist will be able to check for gum disease by checking tooth sensitivity and alignment, jawbone structure, gum pocket depth, and gum bleeding, swelling, firmness, etc. From this, your dentist will be able to determine whether you have gum disease and how far along it has progressed.
While plaque is the primary cause of periodontal disease, there are numerous factors that make it more likely. By controlling these factors with the following actions, you can help prevent—or even reverse—gum disease:
- If you smoke, stop, since smoking can keep your gums from healing properly
- Eat healthily
- Reduce stress
- Avoid clenching your teeth
- Brush and floss regularly
In addition to these measures, professional flossing and teeth cleaning can dramatically reduce your risk for gum disease. Cleanings should be done about twice per year. If you are looking for a quality dentistry practice to help prevent gum disease, contact Lynn Dental Care. Our goal is to provide you with the best dental care available, so call us today for an appointment.