Everything you need to know about gum disease
Gum disease (also called periodontal disease) is the number one cause of tooth loss for adults.
In its early stage, gingivitis, this condition is completely reversible when you follow a good oral hygiene routine and get your symptoms treated by a dentist. But if gum disease is allowed to progress, it will put your gums, teeth, jaws and your general health at risk.
How can I tell if I have gum disease?
Unlike other oral health conditions such as tooth decay, gum disease doesn’t always cause pain and discomfort. So you might not know you have it unless you know the signs to look for.
Common symptoms of periodontal disease include:
- red, sore or swollen gums
- bleeding gums when you brush, floss or eat
- bad breath and changes in taste
- increased sensitivity to hot and cold food and drink
- gums starting to recede from your teeth.
Is gum disease linked to other health problems?
There is compelling evidence that periodontal disease increases the risk factor for a wide range of health conditions.
Research in this area is still far from conclusive, but possible connections are being studied between gum disease and:
- cardiovascular (heart) disease
- respiratory (lung) disease
- strokes caused by clogged arteries
- premature birth and low birth weight.
What causes gum disease?
Periodontal disease is an infection of the gum tissue by bacteria in dental plaque. This is the same bacteria responsible for tooth decay, which forms on the surface of teeth and can enter the gums via the sulcus – the small area connecting the gums to the teeth.
The body’s immune system fights this infection by releasing substances that have the side effect of causing the gums and surrounding tissues to become inflamed and damaged. If this condition is left untreated, the gums can start to recede and the teeth start to loosen as more tissue is damaged.
People who smoke are at higher risk of gum disease. Smoking produces more plaque and deprives the blood of oxygen, which prevents the gums from healing properly.
What are the stages of gum disease?
Gum disease begins as gingivitis, the inflammation of the gums. The gums appear red and swollen and may bleed when the teeth are brushed.
If gingivitis is not treated, it can progress into periodontitis, the more severe form of gum disease. During this stage, the jaw bone supporting the teeth starts to break down, causing teeth to become loose and eventually fall out.
How is gum disease treated?
Periodontal disease can be easily treated if the condition is caught early, during the gingivitis phase. Your dentist will carry out a thorough oral examination to diagnose whether gum disease is present, which may involve using dental x-rays to assess the condition of the tooth roots and jaw below the gums.
Your dentist will then remove all plaque from your teeth and gum surfaces. If bacteria has penetrated the gums, it will need to be removed from the tooth roots or jaw too, which requires minor surgery and a longer recovery period.
After your treatment, you should follow your dentist’s advice and maintain a good oral hygiene routine to stop gum disease from returning.
Speak to a dentist in Melbourne
If you think you might have gum disease or you need to see a dentist in Brunswick or Kew for any other reason, contact All Day EveryDay Dental on (03) 9853 1811 or make a booking online.