Brushing our teeth is an essential part of our oral hygiene and many people often forget that it is not just the teeth that need care and cleaning, but also the gums. Brushing too fast can often leave some food debris in between teeth that may contain bacteria harmful to the gums. This can lead to gum disease, which nearly 80% of the world’s population has.
Due to many people having it, we often forget that it is still a disease and needs to be taken seriously as other medical conditions. To help people understand what the disease is and how to manage it, I have listed 5 things everyone should know about gum disease.
Various causes and risk factors can cause gum disease.
The major cause of gum disease is plaque build-up –– a film of bacteria that settle on the gums and teeth. This is most often the result of bad dental care. Plaque contains toxin-producing bacteria that can cause gingivitis, a form of gum disease in which your gums become irritated and inflamed. Plaque can then harden, accumulate, and coat the exterior of the teeth and turn into tartar or calculus that can aggravate the gum inflammation and infection.
If the disease is not detected early, it can lead to gum recession, which weakens the structures that support the tooth and can lead to tooth loss (more on this you can read at Dentaleh, a dental hub based in Singapore which regularly publishes guides and articles about dental treatments and oral health).
Various risk factors contribute to the development of the disease.
Some of these include the following:
- Smoking/tobacco use–Many studies tell us that frequent smokers and tobacco users are nearly seven times more likely to develop gum disease compared to non-users. People with gum disease are highly advised to stop their tobacco use since it can jeopardize the effectiveness of the gingivitis treatment.
- Hormonal changes – A change in the hormonal balance of the body can lead to heightened sensitivity, which can cause gum inflammation. Critical periods in a person’s life where he/she experiences a hormonal imbalance is during puberty, monthly period, pregnancy, and menopause.
- Poor nutrition and unhealthy lifestyle – This can limit the body’s defenses to fight gum infection.
- Certain medications– Some medications for other conditions may be detrimental to your oral health. Due to this, you must inform your dentist about what type of medications you are currently taking.
- Certain chronic diseases– If you have another chronic disease, such as diabetes or cancer, then it can impair the body’s defensive structures and may make it much more likely for gum disease to develop.
If left untreated, gingivitis can develop into periodontitis, an advanced type of gum disease.
To know whether or not your gingivitis has progressed into periodontitis, it is important to know their differences:
- Gingivitis is exhibited by the irritation and inflammation of the gingiva, which is the part of the gums near the base of the teeth.
- Symptoms include:
- Tender or swollen gums
- Gums that are redder than usual (dark red)
- Gums that bleed, particularly during brushing
- Mild gum recession
- Persistent bad breath
- Periodontitis – the bacterial infection not only affects the gums but also the supporting bones of the teeth which can lead to the degradation, loosening, or even loss of teeth. In fact, periodontitis accounts for a great percentage of adult tooth loss.
- Its symptoms include the following:
- Loosened teeth
- Severe gum recession
- Hypersensitive teeth
- Misalignment of teeth or dentures
- Pus discharge along the gingiva
- Severe discomfort or pain while chewing
- Tooth loss
Correct oral hygiene prevents any form of gum infection.
Practicing proper oral hygiene is the best method for preventing the development of gum disease. Dentists recommend the following tips for better dental care:
- Brushing your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste at least twice each day.
- Flossing at least once daily.
- Using a mouth wash specially formulated to prevent gum disease
- Cutting back on smoking or any unhealthy lifestyle habits
- Eating a balanced diet
- Regular visits to the dentist
A proper dental exam is key to determining gum disease.
Since gingivitis is a common condition, many people assume that gum disease is not a serious problem and can be managed easily. This is not true, and it is very important that a dental exam is done to diagnose the extent of the disease.
During this exam, the dentist will perform a method called probing, where the pockets around the teeth are measured. When the depth of the pockets is more than 1 – 3 millimetres, this can be considered as a sign of inflammation. Further tests such as X-rays will be ordered by your dentist to properly diagnose the extent of your gum infection. Also, you should tell your dentist about the risk factors and symptoms of your gum disease. Typically, a dentist can treat gingivitis, but for diseases such as periodontitis, you should consult with a licensed periodontist instead. Periodontists are specialized dentists that focus on the diagnosis and treatment of gum diseases.
Several treatment methods can be employed for gum disease.
If you have been diagnosed with gum disease, your dentist will recommend a certain type of treatment depending on several factors, such as the severity of the condition. These include:
- Professional deep cleaning of teeth and gums – a dentist or periodontist can perform a deep cleaning of your teeth to remove any plaque or tartar build-up.
- Medicine – this includes oral antibiotics, antiseptic mouthwash, and antibiotic microspheres that can kill harmful bacteria stuck between your teeth.
- Surgical Procedure – for more serious cases of gum disease, the only treatment left is surgery in which plaque and tartar are removed from the deeper crevices of the teeth and gums.