What are The Signs of Gum Disease?
Gum diseases are easy to be missed because they do not cause any pain like a toothache. If you notice bleeding while brushing, then it is one of the first warnings of your deteriorating gums. It is important to be more aware of changes in your oral health and symptoms of oral diseases to be able to identify any signs of a gum disease early.
Gum diseases can easily be unnoticed, an initial gum infection can spread to your gum line and the bones beneath the gumline. Gum diseases including periodontitis and gingivitis have been shown to increase the risk of several medical conditions including cancer, pneumonia, heart diseases, diabetes and osteoporosis. Gum diseases are also one of the main reasons for adults losing their teeth.
Regular dental service and paying heed to certain subtle oral distress signals can be tooth- and life-savers.
Gum Diseases Vary in Severity
When afflicted by a gum disease, inflammation of the gums occurs. If left untreated, it can spread to the bones that are supporting the teeth.
Gum diseases are caused by plaque bacteria. Plaque is a colourless, sticky substance that forms over the teeth over time. For healthy gums and teeth, plaque needs to be removed every day through brushing and flossing. Left uncleaned, plaque builds up to bacterial attacks. The bacteria affect not only the gums and teeth. It is also detrimental to the gum tissues, and gradually the bone that is supporting the teeth. As a result, the affected tooth (or teeth) starts wobbling. The tooth may fall off on its own or may have to be removed by a dentist.
Gum diseases occur in 3 stages. The bigger the stage the greater the severity of the disease.
This is the beginning stage of gum disease. This is the stage when plaque build-up along the gumline, bacterial infection and inflammation begin. If the plaque is not removed daily, or if daily brushing and flossing become incapable of eliminating the plaque, then the plaque starts producing toxins. These toxins attack the gumline, irritating the gum tissue, and leading to the oral condition called gingivitis. Bleeding while brushing or flossing is one of the first symptoms of gingivitis.
Common symptoms of gingivitis include:
- Swollen gums
- Gums turning dusky or dark red in colour
- Easily bleeding gums, during brushing or flossing
- Bad odour of breath
- Gums that feel tender to the touch
- Receding gums
A reliable dental service can cure gingivitis as this is considered an early stage. The bone and the tissue that hold the teeth intact are not affected yet. The chances of recovery are high.
The gum disease has escalated in this stage. The bacterial infection has attacked the gum tissue. Still, if detected early, permanent loss of teeth can be averted. Left untreated, the teeth-supporting bone is the next in line to be attacked. As the disease progresses, gums may start forming pockets beneath the gumline to capture plaque and bacteria, leading to build-up.
Symptoms of periodontitis include:
Timely dental service and improved dental hygiene at home can help put periodontitis in check and prevent further damage.
This is the most serious stage of gum disease. Gum tissue, fibres and bone, are all damaged. As a result, teeth may begin to loosen and wobble. Daily activities involving teeth such as biting food start getting affected. Aggressive treatments are needed. A dental specialist called periodontist usually administers the treatment. If the advanced treatment does not work, then the teeth may have to be removed.
What Causes Gum Disease?
While plaque is the major reason behind gum diseases, certain lifestyle habits and genetic conditions put you at greater risk of gingivitis and periodontitis. Here are some common risk factors:
What can be done to prevent gum disease?
Practising good oral hygiene is the best way to decrease chances of getting afflicted by gingivitis or periodontitis. Cultivate good oral habits early in life and practise them throughout your lifetime for the best results.
Follow Good Oral Habits
- Brush your teeth for 2 minutes daily, once when you get up, and second before going to bed.
- Floss once a day. The best time to floss is before you brush. This loosens food particles and bacteria stuck between the teeth, which can then be removed by brushing.
- Brush your teeth with a soft toothbrush. Replace the brush every 3 to 4 months.
- Use an electric toothbrush, if possible, as it can remove plaque and bacteria with more efficiency
- Use additional dental products such as a mouth rinse. Use specialized dental products that make cleaning between the teeth easier, such as a toothpick or an interdental brush.
Good oral habits help develop an environment that is not conducive to bacteria causing gingivitis and periodontitis.
Schedule Periodic Dental Visits
How is Gum Disease Treated?
Prompt treatment is key to preventing further damage in case of gum diseases. Professional dental cleaning is the first step in the treatment of gum diseases. The aim of the professional cleaning is complete elimination of plaque, tartar (plaque build-up that has hardened over time) and bacterial presence.
There are 2 methods to perform professional dental cleaning – Dental Scaling and Root Planing. These procedures may be performed by your dentist. Sometimes, your dentist may refer you to a periodontist or a dental hygienist for the treatment. Both treatments aim at cleaning the infected oral pockets thoroughly to prevent any, or further damage, to the bone supporting the teeth.
Scaling is used to remove tartar and bacterial presence on the surface of the teeth and in the region below the gums. Dentists usually employ manual instruments or ultrasonic devices (sometimes, a combination of both) to get rid of plaque and bacteria in the affected area.
The process starts with an in-depth examination of your oral region. Your dentist will use an ultrasonic instrument to remove plaque and bacteria. This instrument generates sonic vibrations for plaque removal. The ultrasonic instrument makes removal of plaque, tartar, and biofilm, easy and efficient.
Efficiency and accuracy of the instrument are important because the region involved – area below the gumline and the tooth surface – are sensitive and difficult to access. With an ultrasonic instrument, the job is much easier. Your dentist may then use manual hand instruments to erase the traces of any existing contaminants.
This procedure goes a bit further than Scaling. It removes existing contaminants and prevents them from further build-up. Planing is aimed at removal of plaque, biofilm, and bacteria causing gum inflammation. In addition to removing the oral contaminants. Planing softens the root surfaces and prevents further growth of bacteria and tartar. It aids in faster healing by eliminating bacterial by-products that slow down healing process or delays the process where the gun reattaches to the tooth surface.
Hand instruments, ultrasonic devices or a laser device, may be used for Root Planing.
Antibiotics may be prescribed to control bacterial infection. Topical or oral antibiotics may be prescribed. You may be advised to use topical antibiotics in the form of oral rinses. Topical antibiotics may also be in the form of antibiotic gels, which have to be inserted into the region between the gums and the teeth, or into the infected oral pockets. Gels are usually inserted after a deep oral cleaning.
Oral antibiotics may be prescribed in addition for complete elimination of the bacteria causing infection.
The best way to make your dental treatments work is to adopt good oral practices daily. Avoiding use of tobacco, prescribed brushing and flossing frequency, regular visits to your dental service, and excellent management of existing medical conditions, are important to keep your teeth healthy and prevent further oral damage.