Periodontal or gum disease, which is a persistent inflammation and infection of gums and gum tissue, is the main reason for about 70% of the loss of a tooth in adults occurring in 3 out of 4 people in adulthood.
Causes of gum disease
The primary cause of gum disease is a bacterial plaque, a colorless, sticky film on the teeth. Different periodontal conditions can be connected with different types of bacteria. If one doesn’t remove plaque with daily cleaning and flossing, it can turn into a hardened porous, rough, plaque known as calculus or tartar.
Toxins created by the bacteria in plaque cause inflammation and irritation of the gums. The toxins result in a lessening of the fibers holding the gums securely to your teeth, generating periodontal pockets that hold even more bacteria and toxins. The condition advances, the pockets get stretched even deeper and the bacteria continues to spread down until the bone is damaged that keeps the teeth in place. Eventually, the tooth or teeth come out or require removal.
Other factors of gum disease
Genetics is another factor that plays a part in gum disease, as are some of the choices one makes in life. If you live on a diet that has too low nutritional value, it can minimize the body’s ability to combat illness and infection. Cigarette smokers or tobacco users are even more prone to irritation and discomfort in gum tissues than people who don’t smoke.
Tension and stress in life can additionally impact your capacity to fight disease. Diseases that hinder the body’s immune system, for example, AIDS or leukemia, can exacerbate problems in the gums. Out of control diabetic issues, that actually increase the chances of infection, can cause a patient to have more serious problems with gum disease and make it more difficult to manage.
The warning signs of gum disease
Gums should normally be healthy looking, a light pink in color and be free from tartar. Additionally, the gum tissue and bone should be at a proper height to keep the teeth secure.
Then tartar starts to develop on the teeth, with bacteria in the tartar creating toxins that cause discomfort and irritation in the gums. The gums start swelling, becoming tender and bleeding easily. This disorder is called gingivitis. It is a condition whereby the gums become irritated and inflamed, however, there is still a healthy level of bone.
The tartar gradually increases and the enzymes and toxins created by the bacteria begin to destroy bone holding in the tooth, resulting in a reduction of the level of bone. This known as moderate periodontitis.
As the buildup of tartar accumulates more, the loss of bone also increases, creating a reduction of support around the teeth. This causes the teeth to become loose and they are apt to move and change position. This is advanced periodontitis and can eventually lead to a loss of teeth unless extensive dental treatment is obtained.
Indications of gum disease are reddened, inflamed, and tender gums, an increase in bleeding when brushing or flossing teeth, gums pulling away from teeth, teeth separating out or becoming loose, puss coming from the gum and tooth, chronic bad breath, teeth not fitting together as they used to when eating, and changes in the fit of partial dentures. Patients should be on the watch for indicators but realize the illness could increase to a point where it is irreversible before there is any actual discomfort. This makes regular dental care examinations very important.
Treatment of gum disease
During the early phases, treatment of periodontal disease consists of scaling and root planning, which is the removal of plaque and calculus from around the tooth and smoothing surfaces of the root. The dentist may prescribe antibiotics or antimicrobials to augment the scaling and root planing. In many instances, in the early stages of gum disease, gingivitis, the scaling and root planing of the teeth, along with everyday brushing, can bring about a satisfactory outcome.
In more advanced situations, some surgical treatment might be necessary, involving the cutting of the gums and getting rid of the hardened plaque build-up, along with the recontouring damaged bone. These procedures additionally smooth the surfaces of the root and bring about a repositioning of the gum tissue, making it simpler to keep them clean.
Prevention of gum disease
Eliminating plaque through brushing and flossing daily and regular, expert teeth cleaning, are the simplest ways to lessen your risk of getting gum disease. Your dentist can create a customized program of oral care and cleaning that you can do at home. Most often a dentist will perform a periodontal exam during your regular checkup. If he doesn’t, you should request one. Even kids should be checked for signs of gum disease.
The role of the general dentist
The general dentist is usually able to diagnose a gum condition and can treat it within the very early phases. Some general dentists have obtained specialized expertise to deal with much more advanced stages of gum disease. In the event that your dentist thinks that your condition calls for treatment from a specialist, then he/she will refer you to a periodontist. The periodontist and your dentist can work collectively to formulate a treatment plan that will best work for you.
The importance of maintenance
Keeping to a regimen of dental care on a regular basis is very important for patients who wish to keep the results they have received from their treatment. A patient should see their dentist without fail every 3-4 months (or more if deemed necessary) to receive spot scaling of a needed area, root planning, and an exam to see how results are progressing.
At home in the time between visits, patients should ensure they brush their teeth minimally two times on a daily basis, they should keep flossing in every day, and also brush the tongue to keep plaque from building up. Using a regular soft nylon toothbrush is the most reliable and least costly way to maintain healthy teeth.
Electrical brushes can be a good alternative. But they are not any more effective than regular toothbrushes at cleaning into the gum pockets. Small narrow brushes called proxy brushes are the most effective way to get the spaces between the teeth clean and are beneficial to use daily. Only use toothpicks or rubber-tipped picks if your dentist recommends them.