Gum disease is one of the most common oral health issues around. It affects almost everyone at least once in their lifetime. The disease begins as a result of inadequate oral hygiene maintenance, and if left untreated, can progress to irreversible stages.
Causes of Gum Disease
The layer of plaque that covers the surfaces of our teeth is full of bacteria and microorganisms. The plaque is a sticky film that gets removed every time we brush and floss our teeth. However, it is formed once again within minutes of brushing our teeth. This plaque tends to collect food particles and, if not removed regularly, can accumulate over time and form calculus – commonly known as tartar.
While plaque and other soft debris that collects around teeth can be cleaned by regular brushing and flossing, calculus is a hard substance that adheres to the tooth surface and can only be removed through professional cleaning by a dentist. The bacteria in the accumulated plaque and calculus leads to inflammation and infection of the gums, leading to gum diseases.
Some individuals are at higher risk of developing gum diseases. Chronic smokers are not just more susceptible to gum disease, but also respond poorly to the treatment of the disease. Other factors that contribute to repeated development of gum disease include:
- Conditions that cause hormonal imbalance in the body like pregnancy, puberty, or other hormonal disorders.
- Debilitating diseases like uncontrolled diabetes, AIDS, etc.
- Genetic predisposition to developing gum disease
- Medications that reduce salivary flow
Stages of Gum Disease
The earliest stage of gum disease is known as gingivitis – a term we are all familiar with. Gingivitis is characterized by swollen and inflamed gums, which can bleed upon touching, chewing, or brushing.
If gingivitis is left untreated, the bacterial infection can reach the supporting structures that surround the tooth and the underlying bone. At this stage, gum disease is classified as periodontal disease or periodontitis. Periodontitis usually needs professional dental treatment, and seeking help from a dentist should not be delayed in order to prevent gum diseases from getting worse.
Periodontal disease is usually associated with pain, and if adequate treatment measures are not undertaken, it will eventually result in the loss of the tooth.
Treatment of Gum Disease
Early gum diseases or gingivitis can be treated at home with proper brushing and flossing techniques. Individuals may seek professional intervention if they notice repeated development of gum disease in spite of adequate cleaning measures.
The treatment of periodontal disease, however, can be prolonged and may require multiple visits to the dentist. Your dentist will perform professional cleaning procedures on your teeth, which includes scaling and root planing, to rid them of any plaque and bacterial infections. This is also accompanied with proper cleaning measures performed by the patient at home.
The dentist may recommend specific changes in habits as well, like quitting smoking or changes in diet. Medication like antibiotics and painkillers are advised in combination with the cleaning done by the dentist.
Preventing Gum Disease
While gum diseases are treatable and reversible, it is necessary to maintain proper oral hygiene at home to ensure the disease does not come back. Apart from daily flossing and brushing at least twice a day, it is also advisable to see your dentist at regular intervals to get thorough professional cleanings.