July 2, 2022

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Gum Disease: What You Should Know

The human body is home to various complex systems. Each of them works differently, but with the main goal of the body’s survival and growth. When diseases and other health problems occur, these systems send out signals indicating that the body or a part of it is at risk. 

One example of that is the oral system. It is made up of parts like the teeth, tongue, and gums that help a person do essential tasks like eating and talking. If one of them is infected, you will usually feel pain or discomfort, which is your body telling you that something is wrong.

This is what happens when you have gum disease. Patients with this condition usually complain of swelling and bleeding in their gums. It requires urgent treatment from an emergency dentist; otherwise, the pain will continue to worsen. Listed below are more information about this disease. 

What Is Gum Disease?

Gum disease, also known as periodontitis, refers to the infection of the soft tissue in your gums. It requires immediate treatment as it can also affect your alveolar bone, which supports your teeth. When that happens, it causes your teeth to loosen and eventually leads to tooth loss. 

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that the disease is prevalent among adults aged 30 years and older. In fact, 70.1% of adults aged 65 years old and above in the US have it. 

What Causes It? 

Periodontitis is a preventable disease, and oftentimes, it is caused by poor oral hygiene. When you don’t brush your teeth regularly and properly, dental plaque develops. This is a sticky film of bacteria that forms because of food particles stuck in your teeth. If plaque is not removed, it hardens and turns into tartar, which is more difficult to remove. Both plaque and tartar usually form above or underneath the gumline.

The initial stages of gum disease are called gingivitis, where inflammation occurs in the base of your teeth called gingiva. Without proper treatment, it can progress into periodontitis, a more severe condition that is harder to handle. It’s because the infection quickly spreads until such time that it breaks down the bones and tissues around your teeth. 

Aside from poor oral habits, other factors increase your risk of acquiring periodontitis. It includes hormonal changes, obesity, vitamin C deficiency, diseases like diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as smoking or chewing tobacco. Some of the common symptoms of periodontitis include the following:

  • Bleeding gums
  • Bad breath
  • Red or purplish gums
  • Pus in your teeth and gums
  • Feeling pain while chewing
  • Receding gums
  • Tooth loss

Treatment

If you are experiencing any of the mentioned indications of the disease, it’s important to seek dental care from a periodontist. Initially, these specialists will have to examine your gums to determine the severity of your condition. This includes reviewing your medical history and requiring you to take dental x-rays to see if there is any bone loss. They will also need to check your gums and measure the pocket depth. Healthy gums have a pocket depth of around 1 to 3 millimeters, so if it’s deeper than that, it’s a possible indication of periodontitis. 

To treat this disease, it is necessary to remove the tartar or plaque buildup that is causing the infection. Depending on the gravity of your situation, the dentist may recommend either a surgical or nonsurgical procedure. Nonsurgical treatments typically include the following:

  • Drinking oral antibiotics or applying topical medication to your gums helps in controlling bacterial growth and suppressing infection. 
  • Scaling and root planing are two procedures that involve using dental devices to remove tartar buildup. The former eliminates bacteria on the tooth surface, while the latter focuses on smoothening the root surfaces. As a result, we do not only eradicate the elements but also reduce the chances of them developing again.

On the other hand, more severe effects of the disease may involve the following surgical options:

  • Bone grafting is done when the bone around the roots of your teeth has been destroyed because of periodontitis. It is done by surgically transplanting a bone, either donated or taken from a part of your body, to repair the damaged area. It will help not only in preventing complete tooth loss but also in regrowing your natural bone structure.
  • Pocket reduction surgery is a procedure otherwise known as periodontal flap surgery, also involving scaling and root planing. Your periodontist will perform it by making an incision in your gums to expose the roots of your teeth and your jawbone. This is where the treatment, which includes scraping the bacteria and removing infected tissues, will be performed.
  • Soft tissue grafting is another type of dental operation that can help with receding gums. It is performed by removing a piece of soft tissue from your palate and attaching it to the damaged parts of your gums. In that way, gum recession is reduced while the roots of your teeth are covered and protected.

Seek Dental Care From Your Trusted Dentist

As mentioned, periodontitis is a preventable disease. One of the simple things you can do is to maintain your dental hygiene by practicing good oral habits, like brushing and flossing your teeth properly and regularly. Aside from that, make sure to visit your dentist for regular checkups. Last but not least, when you recognize any of the stated symptoms, seek treatment from an emergency dentist to help prevent it from getting worse.