Gum disease is the most prevalent oral health condition and is tied to a whole range of other general health concerns. In fact, it is the fifth most common health problem reported amongst Australians. So, what is it?
The earliest stages of gum disease are referred to as gingivitis. At this early stage, it is easily-treated and reversed. If left untreated and allowed to progress, it can become periodontal disease or late stage gum disease. Then, the issue becomes incredibly difficult to treat.
At all stages of the disease, it affects the tissue around the teeth. This disease is a far more prevalent cause of tooth loss than decay because it attacks the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth and keep them in place.
What Causes Gum Disease?
Plaque is the main cause of this issue. This film of bacteria forms on teeth every day, and while much of it is harmless, certain types of bacteria attack the gums and teeth causing everything from infections and abscesses to decay. Other causes of gum disease are:
- Poor oral hygiene (irregular brushing, flossing and visits to the dentists)
- Poor dietary habits, such as excessive consumption of sugary, acidic or alcoholic drinks
- Smoking and tobacco use
- Medications that affect salivary flow, etc
- Illnesses and diseases such as leukaemia, diabetes and HIV
- Hormonal changes due to puberty, menopause and pregnancy
- Genetics and a family history of the disease
- Crooked or crowded teeth
Symptoms of Gum Disease
If you notice any blood when brushing or flossing your teeth, this is a sign that you have gum disease. The problem with this issue is that it is often painless until the later stages. In fact, there may be no visible signs at all, even with severe levels of bone rotted away.
Other symptoms include:
- Red, tender or swollen gums
- The formation of pockets in between your gums and teeth
- Loose or wobbly teeth
- Receding gums
- Bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth
- A change in your bite or the way your teeth fit together
What Are The Outcomes Of Gum Disease
Tooth loss and pain are the most obvious effects of gum disease, but medical studies have drawn links to much more severe conditions, including:
- Heart disease
- Premature birth
- Rheumatoid arthritis
The exact causation is still uncertain, but expert opinion points to the bacteria in the mouth entering the bloodstream and causing inflammation. Inflammation in the major organs causes a lot of the above problems, so the causation seems logical.
How Should You Deal With Gum Disease?
The only way to deal with gum disease is a trip to the dentist. You want a dentist who is specially trained and understands gum disease. As already mentioned, gum disease can be present with almost no symptoms, so often your dentist will be on the only way you even know there is a problem.
A gum disease treatment process depends on the stage of disease you have. For gingivitis, a thorough scale and clean will be used to remove all the plaque from the gums. Sometimes two cleans will be required to allow the gums to heal.
If you have periodontal disease, a deep cleaning and tooth planing procedure will be required. This could take place over 4 to 6 visits, and while it can be uncomfortable, the pain of the procedure will be controlled with a local anaesthetic and, in rare cases, antibiotics may be recommended. If none of this works, you will need to be referred to a periodontist for specialist surgical intervention.
An incredibly important aspect of any dental treatment success is passing on the education you need to look after your gums at home. This education could include advice on changing your brushing or flossing technique, and incorporating the use of an antiseptic mouthwash into your home-care regime.
It could also include advice on making some lifestyle changes, whether that means giving up smoking, changing your diet or reducing your intake of alcohol. With such a strong connection between oral and overall health, making those small changes really is worth the trouble to secure your gum health and optimal overall body health.
The best thing you can do for your gums is to visit your dentist at least twice a year. With active maintenance, you can prevent gum disease and all the hassle and pain that comes with late stage gum disease. It’s not just gum disease you’ll avoid, you’ll avoid a whole host of serious and potentially expensive dental and other health problems.
If you would like more information or to book an appointment, please contact us.