Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is an infection of the gums that surround your teeth. It is one of the primary causes of tooth loss in adults. Because it is virtually pain-free, many patients do not know they have the disease. During each regular checkup, Dr. Saepoff will check for signs of periodontal disease by measuring gently under the gum along the root.
What causes gum disease?
Gum disease is caused by bacteria that take advantage of inflammation and create and opportunistic infection below the gumline on your roots. If the plaque is not removed by flossing, brushing, and regular dental checkups, it will continue to build up and create toxins that can damage the gums.
Periodontal disease forms just below the gum line and creates small pockets that separate the gums from the teeth by causing the periodontal ligament to weaken and break down. It has two stages: gingivitis and periodontitis.
- Gingivitis — This is the early stage of gum disease, when the gums become red and swollen, and bleed easily. At this stage, the disease is treatable and can usually be eliminated by daily brushing and flossing to reduce inflammation and reduce the number of bacteria.
- Periodontitis — If left untreated, gingivitis can advance into periodontitis. The gums and bone that support the teeth will become seriously and irreversibly damaged. Periodontitis can cause teeth to become loose, fall out, or require removal by a dentist.
Certain factors can increase a patient’s risk of developing periodontal disease, including:
- Debilitated health, inadequate nutritional status, dehydration
- Smoking or using chewing tobacco
- Certain types of medication such as steroids, anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, calcium channel blockers, and oral contraceptives
- Bridges that no longer fit properly
- Crowded teeth that are difficult to maintain
- Bulky or failing fillings
- Pregnancy, normal and abnormal hormone changes
While it is possible to have periodontal disease and not know it, some symptoms can include:
- Gums that bleed easily
- Red, swollen, tender gums
- Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
- Persistent bad breath or unpleasant taste in the mouth
- Pus between your teeth and gums
- Loose or separating permanent teeth
- Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- Any change in the fit of partial dentures
Treating Gum Disease
Treatments for gum disease can vary depending on the severity of each individual case. Typical treatments include:
- Non-surgical treatments (some offices want their patients to use fluoride or chlorhexidine medications for treatment with at-home periodontal trays)
- Ultrasonic scaling
- Some offices perform root, bone and gum surgery using conventional techniques or lasers
- At our office we offer ozone tray treatment to kill bacteria around and under the gums
- We also ozonate the water that is used in the ultrasonic periodontal treatment unit to kill bacterial under the gums
Preventing Gum Disease
Regular dental checkups and periodontal examinations are important for making sure your gums remain healthy year after year. You don’t have to lose teeth to periodontal disease.
By practicing good oral hygiene at home, you can significantly reduce your chances of ever getting gum disease. Remember to brush regularly, clean between your teeth, eat a balanced diet, and schedule regular dental visits. We also recommend oil pulling and other nutritional tips depending on your individual condition and preferences.