Stinky Breath? Sore Gums? Don’t let gum disease take a toll on your oral health!
Do your gums frequently feel sore? Have you noticed—or been told—you have bad breath? It could be gum disease, or, in the dental world what we professionals refer to as “periodontal disease.” Both are terms that describe a bacterial infection of the gum tissue. Over time, gum diseases causes gingivitis, which commonly translates into tender gums and bad breath. Left untreated or if particularly aggressive, it can lead to periodontitis, the more advanced stage of gum disease.
Gingivitis affects 75 percent of all adults in the United States. It begins with the creamy bacterial film on the teeth known as “plaque.” If we fail to brush properly (technique as well as frequency), this can cause the gums to become red, swollen, and bleed easily when we go to brush and floss our teeth. Gingivitis is the precursor to periodontitis. However, with professional treatment and good oral care at home, it may be reversed.
Left untreated, gingivitis leads to periodontitis, a more serious condition that can affect your whole-person health. This is when the bacteria on the teeth produce toxins that irritate the gums. It creates an inflammatory response, breaking down and even destroying the tissues and bone that support the teeth. Gums separate from the teeth and infection sets in. Without professional dental care, this process tends to continue repeating itself until there is permanent tooth loss.
Digging Deeper: The Causes of Gum Disease
As mentioned, gum disease begins with bacteria that, when combined with mucus and food particles, forms plaque. Plaque that isn’t removed through good oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups hardens and turns into white tarter. This substance can only be removed by a professional dental cleaning.
When plaque and tartar aren’t removed, the teeth and gums become a breeding grounds for harmful bacteria that, over time, can lead infection of gum tissue.
Gum disease symptoms include:
● Gums that bleed easily, are red, swollen and tender
● Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
● Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth
● Permanent teeth that are loose
● Any changes in the fit of partial dentures
Risks Factors of developing gum disease:
● Poor oral hygiene
● Smoking or chewing tobacco
● Misaligned or crooked teeth that are hard to clean
● Medication (e.g., include steroids, some anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, some calcium channel blockers, and any medication that causes dry mouth.)
Gum disease can only be diagnosed by a licensed dental provider. Dentists and hygienists look for signs of gum disease during your routine dental check-ups. They begin by examining the gums, measuring your gums with a periodontal probe and looking at the level of bone on x-rays.
Treating Gum Disease With Non-Surgical and Surgical Treatments:
If gum disease is caught early, your dental hygienist may be able treat (or even reverse your gum disease with non-surgical treatment. This is done by a Scaling and Root Planing—or a “Deep Cleaning”—of the infection. It entails cleaning areas of the jawbone and the roots of the teeth. As the tartar buildup is above and below the gumline and needs to be scraped or scaled away, the treatment may consist of two to four appointments. Anesthetic may be needed.
In addition, if you have periodontitis, your hygienist will likely recommend cleanings more than the standard twice a year. These quarterly cleanings are part of periodontal maintenance and help keep the levels of harmful mouth bacteria down. They’re a preventive measure that may reduce the long-term, negative effects of periodontal disease.
In some cases, however, gum disease requires more intensive treatment by a gum & bone specialist, or “periodontist.” A periodontist surgically removes tartar where your hygienist isn’t able to access and removes gum tissue, helping reduce the space between the gum and the tooth. In addition, a periodontist can also do bone grafts and soft tissue grafts.
Could You Have Gum Disease?
It is possible to have gum disease and have no warning signs. That is one reason why we encourage regular dental checkups and periodontal examinations at One Community Health.
Treatment methods depend upon the type of disease and how far the condition has progressed. Good dental care at home is essential to help keep periodontal disease from becoming more serious or recurring. How? Brush your teeth twice a day, clean between your teeth daily, eat a balanced diet, and don’t forget to schedule regular dental visits for a lifetime of healthy smiles!
Kim Harris, Dental Hygienist
One Community Health