Periodontitis, or gum disease, is a serious disease that can affect anyone. Periodontitis can be divided into two categories: gingivitis, which affects the soft tissue of the gums, and periodontitis, which can affect the surrounding bone.
In the early stage, a sticky layer of plaque forms around the gum line. Bacteria from the plaque irritates the gum and causes the gum to become red and swollen. Bleeding can occur even with minor irritation caused by a toothbrush or dental floss.
Plaque around the gum that is not removed will harden to become calculus (tartar) which is impossible to remove with a toothbrush.
If left untreated, gingivitis will progress to become periodontitis. Periodontitis occurs when bacteria reaches the surrounding bone. When irritated, the bone will start to shrink away from the tooth, leaving a gap where more bacteria can infiltrate.
Continued shrinkage can cause the tooth to eventually fall out.
Symptoms of Gum Disease
Healthy gums should be firm and pink with no blood present when you brush or floss your teeth. Your breath should also be fresh.
Gum Disease Symptoms include:
- Red or swollen gums
- Tenderness in the gums
- Persistent bad breath
- Presence of blood when brushing or flossing
- Pain when chewing hard food
- Loose or sensitive teeth
- Receding gums.
- Teeth appearing longer than normal.
There are several factors that can increase your risk of gum disease. These include:
- Bad oral health habits, like poor or infrequent brushing and flossing, can make a person more vulnerable to the disease.
- Poor oral hygiene is definitely the main cause of Periodontal disease and smoking is one of the important contributing factors.
- Type 2 diabetes patients are three times more likely to suffer from gum disease than healthy people. Diabetes affects the glucose level (blood sugar) making it hard to treat diabetic patients with the disease.
- Hormonal fluctuations in puberty or menopause can make gums more sensitive and susceptible to gum disease.
- Drugs and medications that reduce saliva flow can leave the mouth vulnerable to gum infections. Some drugs also cause abnormal growth of gum tissue which can make it difficult for teeth and gums to be cleaned.
- Autoimmune diseases like AIDS/HIV weakens the integrity of the gum and can result in gum disease.
How to Prevent Gum Disease
Gum disease is a serious disease but there are measures you can take to prevent it:
- Adopt an effective oral hygiene management that includes brushing your teeth, employing proper brushing techniques, at least twice a day. Regular flossing is also important.
- Schedule regular visits (six-monthly) to your dentist for check-ups.
- Stop smoking.
There are several ways to treat gum disease depending on the severity of the problem. These can include:
- Scaling and root planing to get rid of tartar build-up and rough spots on the root of the tooth.
- Medications that can be used together with scaling and root planing.
- Surgery when the disease is serious and has progressed too far to be treated with normal deep cleaning and medication.
- An active maintenance dental program.