Gum Disease: Symptoms and Treatment
Gum disease occurs when plaque and tartar build-up occurs on the teeth. This build up then causes swelling (inflamation) or soreness due to the infection. This then leads to issues like Gingivitis and Periodontal Disease. These conditions can result in receding gums, and loss of the supporting bone which, if left untreated, can result in weakened or even lost teeth.
In most cases, gum disease is preventable by looking after your teeth by brushing, flossing and regularly visiting your dentist and dental hygienist.
Gum disease explained
What is gum disease?
In short, gum disease is a common problem, where plaque builds up on your teeth. Plaque contains bacteria and as the bacteria increases it causes swelling of the gums. This can lead to receding gums and the loss of supporting bone, which if left untreated, can result in weakened or even lost teeth.
What are the symptoms?
If you're concerned about gum disease, the first tell is usually spotting blood in your toothpaste when you clean your teeth. Puffy or swollen gums, or gums that are redder than usual can also be a symptom of gum disease. This stage of gum disease is called gingivitis.
Symptoms of a more advanced gum disease can include bad breath (also known as halitosis), a consistent foul taste in the mouth, loose teeth and gum abscesses. This stage is known as periodontitis or periodontal disease, and can lead to permanent damage to your gums and bone structure in the jaw.
In this stage, the gums will have pulled away from the teeth which causes infected pockets, and the hardened plaque will have begun to spread below the gum line, causing bacteria to break down the connecting bone and tissue - this is what causes loose teeth. In some cases, periodontitis can be hereditary.
How can I treat gum disease?
Thankfully, the early stages of gum disease are very treatable with good oral hygiene, and can in many cases be entirely reversed. Brushing thoroughly twice a day with regular flossing - at least once a day - is the best way to prevent gum disease. Your dentist might also be able to recommend an anti-bacterial mouthwash if you're particularly concerned.
The later stages of gum disease - periodontitis - can be harder to treat, and requires special attention. Here, the infection is deeper-rooted, and oral surgery may be required to fully remove the infection and replace damaged bone or tissue.
How can I prevent gum disease?
The best way to avoid gum disease entirely is to keep regular appointments with your dentist and hygienist. Opting for a scale and polish will help to remove any food, plaque and tartar build up from above and below the gum line, and regular check-ups will allow your dentist to alert you to any oral health concerns you should be aware of.
You're also at a higher risk of gum disease if you:
- Have diabetes
- Suffer from stress
- Are on certain types of medication that lessen the flow of saliva
- Suffer from certain illnesses (such as cancer, as the treatment can increase risk)
- Have a family history of gum disease
- Are female and suffer from hormonal changes