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Sticking it to Gum Disease

Symptoms and causes of gum disease

Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is an infection which affects the tooth’s support system, primarily (as the name suggests) the gums. Your gums are not enveloping the teeth as they seem to be; in fact, there is a shallow cranny between the gums and tooth called a sulcus. Gum disease assaults here in the sulcus, just underneath the gum line, damaging supporting tissues of the tooth. Periodontal diseases are grouped based on intensity. Of the two major stages, gingivitis is more common than its periodontitis counterpart. Gingivitis is less harsh, as well as reversible. It only affects the gums, which become inflamed and bleed easily, usually when brushing. Periodontitis, unfortunately, is not as forgiving. In this situation, the gums will recede away from the teeth, forming “pockets”. Bacteria collect in these newfound havens, bringing infection with them. The immune system will attempt to fight off these unwelcome guests, but the resulting feud can lead to permanent bone destruction in the jaw. When this key structural element becomes compromised, teeth can loosen and need removal.

Are Some People More at Risk for Gum Disease

Smoking

If you need that extra motivation to quit smoking, this is it. Smoking is perhaps the most compelling risk factor identified with developing periodontal disease.

Diabetes

Those with diabetes have a greater chance of getting gum disease.

Hormonal changes in women

These changes make gums sensitive and increasingly susceptible.

Medications

A common side effect in many over-the-counter medications is curtailed saliva production. Without this protective saliva, the mouth becomes at risk for many ailments, including (you said it!) gum disease.

Do I Have Gum Disease

There are a numbers of symptoms to look for when it comes to gum disease, including red and swollen gums, bleeding gums, pain when chewing, loose and sensitive teeth, receding gums, and persistent bad breath. Any of these are key markers indicating the possibility of a serious problem, so it is important to schedule regular checkups with your dentist. During a visit, a good dentist should: Inquire about your medical history to ascertain whether any genetic or previous conditions are causing your gum disease. Look for gum inflammation or any other symptoms. Use a probe to check for “pockets” (gaps between the gum and tooth). Healthy pocket depths are usually between 1 and 3 millimeters.

Treating Gum Disease

If your dentist has just informed you that you have gum disease, know that you are not alone. A large number of adults in the United States have some type of this disease right now! But, the important part is that gum disease is treatable. Your dentist may also propose a change in behavior such as shift in diet, to promote a speedy recovery. The main objective is to regulate infection and depending on its extent, treatments vary. Keep in mind that with any of these solutions, the patient must maintain daily oral care at home.

Deep cleaning

Your dental hygienist may remove plaque from the teeth by scaling and root planing. Scaling is the process of scraping tartar buildup off of enamel and below the gum line, while root planing removes rough spots on the root of the tooth where bacteria that can contribute to gum disease can gather. Compared to traditional deep cleaning methods, this process can yield less swelling and bleeding in the gums.

Medication

Medications, such as antiseptic chips, enzyme suppressants, and oral antibiotics, are often used to augment deep cleanings to control the bacteria that can take up residence in pockets. However, sometimes surgeries are required where deep cleanings and medications fall short.

Surgical treatments

Flap surgery

Surgery may be required should any deep pockets or inflammation remain after treatment and medication. To perform flap surgery, tartar deposits are removed from deep pockets.

Bone and Tissue Grafts -

This surgery is performed after the previous procedure to help restore and tissue and bone lost due to periodontitis.

How to Avoid Gum Disease

It’s not fun at all when gum disease progresses to the point of surgery. The good news is that there is a lot that you can do to avoid all of this unneeded stress and discomfort. First off, brushing twice a day is crucial, as well as flossing regularly to remove the plaque that a toothbrush cannot reach. Second, refrain from smoking. The positive correlation between smoking and the inception of gum disease is staggering. And finally, routine visits to your dentist for a checkup and cleaning are incredibly important.