Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is a harmful oral disease that occurs when the ligaments and bones that support the teeth become infected. Gum disease can spread throughout the mouth and throat and possibly make its way through to your bloodstream if not properly treated. As gum disease progresses and more bone tissue is lost, the teeth may eventually become loose and fall out. For help finding a local dental professional, search for a dentist near you.
Several studies have linked gum disease to cardiovascular diseases, including heart attack or stroke.
Common Signs of Gum Disease
Gingivitis is a very common inflammation of the gums, usually caused by a bacterial infection or buildup of plaque on the teeth. If it is left untreated it can become gum disease, which is more difficult to treat and can have more harmful effects. Signs of gum disease include red and puffy gums that bleed easily when you brush your teeth. Other signs include:
It is possible to have gum disease and not notice any signs or symptoms, so regular visits to a dental professional are important. The only way to determine if you have gum disease is by making an appointment with your dentist. They can then review your symptoms, make an accurate diagnosis and give you their recommended treatment plan.
Common Causes of Gum Disease
The most common cause of gum disease is untreated gingivitis. Other causes and risk factors for developing gum disease include:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Use of tobacco products
- Oral trauma
- Dry mouth
- Certain diseases, like diabetes
- Unhealthy diet
- Drug use
How to Treat and Prevent Gum Disease
Good oral hygiene is the key to preventing gingivitis from progressing to gum disease. Remember to brush twice a day to remove any stains from food and to remove plaque. Floss once a day to remove any buildup between your teeth. Having a professional cleaning by your dentist every 3-6 months will also greatly contribute to a healthy smile. Your dentist can recommend a suitable brush and mouthwash for you to use.
Beyond professional cleaning, treatments for gum disease include:
- Scaling and root planing
- Flap surgery/pocket reduction surgery
- Bone grafts
- Soft tissue grafts
- Guided tissue regeneration
- Bone surgery
There are numerous forms of periodontal treatment and they all work to prevent infection in the gums and, if already existing, restore the gums from infection and disease. The right treatment option for you depends on the stage of disease, how you may have responded to earlier treatments, and your overall health.
Who Treats Gum Disease?
Your dentist or dental hygienist will check for signs and symptoms of gum disease and can provide some treatments, including scaling and root planing. If you have advanced gum disease, you may need to see a periodontist. Periodontists are dentists who are experts in the treatment of oral inflammation and who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of gum disease.