Gum (Periodontal) Disease

Periodontal (gum) disease is an infection of the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth called the gums and is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. Sometimes periodontal disease has no warning signs and regular dental checkups are important in preventing gum disease.

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​Plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth causes gum disease. These bacteria create acids that can damage the gums by eroding the teeth and forming pockets leading to teeth loosening and falling out.

 

Gingivitis is the early stage of the disease and the gums can become red, swollen and bleed easily. It is still reversible at this stage and can usually be eliminated by daily brushing and flossing.

 

Periodontitis is the advanced form of the gum disease when the gums and bone that support the teeth become seriously damaged.

 

Risk factors

  • Tobacco smoking or chewing
  • Diabetes
  • Medication such as steroids, anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, some calcium channel blockers
  • Bridges that do not fit properly and fillings that have become defective
  • Crooked teeth
  • Pregnancy and birth control pills

Symptoms

Gum disease may be painless in the early stages.

The presence of the following symptoms suggests gum disease:
  • gums that bleed easily while brushing
  • red, swollen or tender gums
  • Pus between the teeth and gums when the gums are pressed
  • Persistent bad breath or bad taste
  • Permanent teeth that are loose or separating
  • loose teeth and gums that have pulled away from the teeth
  • a change in the way the teeth fit together while biting or a change in the fit of partial dentures

Treatment

Treatment depends upon the type of disease and how far the condition has progressed. Some options include:
  • Surgical treatment to open and clean deep pockets.
  • Loose teeth may need to be supported.
  • Extraction of a tooth for advanced periodontitis to prevent spread of infection to adjacent teeth.

Prevention of gum disease

Daily brushing and flossing can help reverse early stages of gum disease. Some tips include:
  • Brush your teeth at least twice daily. Use a soft-bristle brush and fluoride toothpaste to remove plaque and food. Floss once daily to remove plague and food stuck in the gums and teeth. Also brush your tongue. Replace your toothbrush every three months because germs accumulate and bristles lose efficiency.
  • Check for gum disease: swelling, tenderness, or bleeding, constant bad breath or bad taste, loose or shifting teeth. Gums should be coral pink, not red
  • Eat a nutritious, balanced diet. Avoid gooey, gummy, or hard candy that stays in the mouth longer than other sweets.
  • Visit your dentist at least once a year.

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Gum (Periodontal) Disease

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