Gum disease is one of the most widespread dental health issues in adults today. It is also the leading cause of adult tooth loss in the United States.
Gum Disease Overview
The danger of gum disease isn’t due to the fact that gum disease is difficult to detect or hard to treat. On the contrary, like most dental health issues, gum disease can be prevented. It can be easily controlled, even if it is in advanced stages. The infection occurs largely as the result of poor oral hygiene and infrequent visits to see the dentist.
Even when patients notice the signs of gum disease, they may not recognize how dangerous who symptoms are. Millions of Americans who have gum disease do not seek dental treatment when they should.
Gum disease starts as a minor infection near pockets of buildup. The buildup can be plaque or tartar. Plaque is a mix of saliva, food bits, and germs. Brushing can remove plaque. If the film is not removed, it can harden into tartar.
Only professional cleanings can remove tartar once it forms. Dentists have special tools that can remove the hard deposits.
A skilled doctor can help detect and treat gum disease before the damage becomes too severe.
The Consequences of Gum Disease
As bacteria settle near your gums, infection results that hurts the nearby tissues. Gums will eventually show signs of irritation, even if the soft tissue doesn’t immediately hurt. The early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis.
Damage at this stage can be reversed with oral hygiene habits and dental cleanings. Gums often look swollen and red. Inflammation is the body’s way of reacting to the presence of harmful germs.
If you have early gum disease, you may notice that your gums bleed when your brush or floss. Swollen gums are more prone to bleeding.
The next form of gum disease is called periodontitis. At this stage, the teeth and gums experience damage that cannot be easily fixed. Bacteria attack the connective tissues that are supporting the teeth.
The infection then causes the gums to recede due to damage to tissue and bone. The results are not pretty.
Then, the gums recede and the roots become exposed. This can place your teeth at greater risk of decay. The main danger of gum tissue recession is tooth loss. Did you know gum disease is the most common cause of tooth loss?
If you want to reduce your risk of tooth loss, your best bet is to treat gum disease early on. You can even prevent gum disease altogether.
Let’s take a closer look at the germs that cause this problem.
A Close Look at the Gum Disease Germ
Did you know that there are over 600 types of germs that can live in your mouth? Luckily, most of them are harmless. Good bacteria even keep out bad bacteria.
Unlike people and animals, germs do not need oxygen. As the microbes eat, they produce a sticky film called plaque. This is sort of a temporary home for the microbes. It protects germs from your mouth’s natural defenses.
This is one reason why good brushing habits and flossing are so important to prevent bacteria from forming. Poor oral hygiene habits will result in plaque and decay.
One specific germ, P. gingivalis, is very good at avoiding the body’s immune response. The germ still causes swelling that damages tissue.
The Oral-Systemic Connection
Inflammation isn’t just bad for your gums. Diabetes, heart disease, dementia, stroke, and other conditions are also linked to uncontrolled inflammation in arteries and other parts of your body.
According to reports by the AAP, the inflammation of the gums linked to severe gum disease may be a significant risk factor in other diseases as well. One theory is that bacteria can enter the bloodstream through the gums where they microbes reach the heart and other sensitive parts of the body.
As the germs travel through the body, they can create inflammation in other areas of the body. Heart health and gum disease have been conclusively linked. In short, oral health is closely linked to overall health. Healthy gums can mean a healthy heart.
To avoid health problems, try to stay ahead of gum disease.
Treating and Preventing Gum Disease for Better Health
Preventing and controlling gum disease requires the removal of harmful bacteria from under the gum line. Once the cause of infection is removed, the body can begin to heal.
Advanced infections may require periodontal treatment. Deep cleanings remove plaque and tartar. Once that is done, scaling is done to smooth the surface of the roots. Scaling is needed to allow the soft tissue to attach back to the teeth and roots. This is performed by dental hygienists.
Advanced periodontal gum disease may require surgical treatment. If this is done, an incision will be made in your gums so your dentist can reach the underlying areas of infection. Sometimes, this treatment is performed by a specialist.
Once your gum disease has been treated, you may need extra dental cleanings to prevent the return of gum disease. Your dentist will advise you.
Treatment alone will not prevent the return of gum disease. You will need to maintain good oral hygiene habits by regularly brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste. You should also see your dentist for cleanings and exams to control and prevent the return of gum disease.
Aside from providing expert general and cosmetic dentistry services to our community, Dr. James Fondriest also holds highly respected academic appointments. He is a former Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Prosthodontics at the University of Florida Dental School.
At Lake Forest Dental Arts, Dr. Fondriest combines his experience with modern technology and caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable staff. We proudly serve patients from Chicago and all surrounding communities. To schedule your consultation, call our office today at (847) 234-0517.
Dr Fondriest is a Nationally recognized and highly sought after cosmetic dentist serving clients from throughout the United States