What is Gum Disease?
Gums are more than the pink flesh that surrounds your teeth; in fact, they are primarily responsible for holding your teeth in place. Although you are taught to brush and floss your teeth from a young age to prevent gum disease and tooth decay, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that nearly 46% of all adults aged 30 years or older show signs of gum disease.
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is the inflammation of the structure supporting your teeth. Symptoms of periodontal disease can range from mild to severe and, if treated early enough, can be reversible!
You may be wondering about the causes and symptoms of gum disease or if it is preventable. The experts at Four Rivers Periodontics and Implant Specialists are here to answer your most frequently asked questions and explain the ins and outs of gum disease.
Here is what you need to know:
Causes of Gum Disease
The primary cause of gum disease is a buildup of plaque and bacteria. When bacteria live on the surface of your teeth for a period of time, they form a film — commonly referred to as plaque. Eventually, the plaque hardens and turns into tartar or calculus.
Plaque typically gets removed by thoroughly brushing and flossing your teeth. When the plaque does not get removed, it produces toxins that can cause infection and decay. That is, in part, why brushing and flossing are so critical to your daily routine.
Other things which can increase your risk of gum disease include smoking, genetics, stress, illnesses, and medications.
Symptoms of Gum Disease
As mentioned above, symptoms of gum disease can range from mild to severe. The most common and recognizable symptom is bleeding gums after brushing and flossing. However, many people can have gum disease and not notice any symptoms. Other symptoms of gum disease include:
- Redness and tenderness.
- Chronic bad breath.
- Pain while chewing.
- Receding gums.
- Deep periodontal pockets.
- Loose or shifting teeth.
- Tooth loss.
If you experience any of the above symptoms, or if you have not had a dental check-up recently, it is pertinent that you schedule an appointment with our highly experienced periodontist.
Stages of Gum Disease
Gum disease is progressive, meaning it gradually develops and typically worsens over time. There are four stages of gum disease, each more severe than the one before it. The four stages are:
Stage 1: Gingivitis
Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease and the most common. During this stage, you may recognize your gums begin to swell or bleed after brushing and glossing. Gingivitis is typically reversible, and the symptoms can improve with more diligent oral hygiene. A professional cleaning may be needed to help jump-start your healing from gingivitis.
Stage 2: Slight Periodontal Disease
If you do not take the proper steps to treat your gingivitis, gum disease progresses to slight periodontal disease. During this stage, the infection spreads to the bone supporting your teeth and begins to deteriorate them. Although this stage is not reversible, you can manage it with proper treatments, including scaling and root planing.
Stage 3: Moderate Periodontal Disease
As you continue to lose bone surrounding your teeth, your disease can progress to moderate periodontal disease. Similar to the last stage, this stage is not reversible. Often early treatment will be similar to slight periodontal disease, but additional regenerative procedures can help regrow the bone support that has been lost.
Stage 4: Advanced Periodontal Disease
Advanced periodontal disease is the most severe stage of periodontitis. Once your infection has reached this stage, you are at a greater risk for tooth loss. Because the supporting bone has deteriorated, your teeth shift, loosen, and may eventually fall out if you do not seek proper treatment. Like moderate periodontal disease, treatments may include scaling and root planing, regenerative procedures and may also include recommending taking out some teeth with the worst infection.
If left untreated, there is an increased risk of developing more chronic and severe diseases. Studies show a link between gum disease, kidney cancer, stroke, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes.
Preventing Gum Disease
There are many ways to prevent plaque buildup and gum disease. The best and most effective way to prevent gum disease is regularly brushing and flossing. It is vital to brush your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes each time. Flossing, an often forgotten step, is also essential to incorporate into your daily routine at least once a day. Nearly 40% of your mouth does not get clean when you forget to floss!
Another important way to monitor the health of your gums is by scheduling regular periodontal exams. A periodontal specialist can accurately evaluate and diagnose any gum issues you may be experiencing.
Other preventative measures you can take for your oral health include eating a nutrient-rich diet, reducing your stress levels, and ending your smoking habit.
Receiving Care at Four Rivers Periodontics and Implant Specialists
At Four Rivers Periodontics and Implant Specialists, we take pride in performing customized and patient-focused dental care to individuals throughout Washington, Missouri, and surrounding areas. We pair state-of-the-art technologies with time-tested treatments to deliver the highest quality patient experience possible.
If you need periodontal treatments, contact us online or call our compassionate staff at (636) 242-6450 today!