February is Gum disease awareness month! It is important because more than half of the adults in our country experience gum disease, leading to gum inflammation and infection. This relentless disease can wreak havoc on your oral health and adversely affects not just your gums but your jaw bone density and teeth, too.
Advanced periodontal disease also puts you at higher risk for heart diseases, chronic kidney disease, strokes, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. This month, we are promoting gum disease awareness to help keep your gums, teeth, and body healthy!
Assessing the Soft Oral Tissues
Endodontics and periodontists deal with your soft oral tissues, like the tooth pulp and periapical tissues (tissues around the tooth root), which need to stay healthy, so your teeth and gums thrive.
Gum disease is broken down into two stages:
1. The early stage of gingivitis is when you have poor oral health from plaque (that clear but sticky bacterial film in your mouth).
2. Plaque development multiplies after you eat and while you sleep from foods that are sweet or acidic. This is why it is ideal to brush and floss after eating and before you retire for the night!
You might have gingivitis if you notice the following:
- Chronic bad breath
- Tender, painful or swollen gums
- Bleeding gums when brushing or flossing
This inflammation and infection, if left untreated, can make your gums recede your teeth, leaving you even more vulnerable to decay and infection where you have abscesses, bone loss, or periodontitis (the advanced stage of gum disease). The end result can be tooth loss. In the early stage, treatment can reverse the condition. Once it progresses to periodontitis, it cannot be reversed and can leave you with tooth loss.
Treating Gum Disease
Gingivitis: At this stage, it can be turned around with consistent daily oral hygiene combined with regular dental cleanings and exams. That is the good news. The not-so-good news is once gum disease is advanced, you will have to have more invasive treatment to manage it and protect your teeth and gums.
Periodontitis: At this stage, scaling and root planing may be needed, cleaning and scraping decay underneath the gum line, and smoothing out the tooth roots. If this is successful, your gums can reattach to the tooth, providing the necessary structure. However, not all instances of scaling and root planing successfully reattach the tooth to the gums. Should scaling and root planing not be enough, the next step is to clean any periodontal pockets around the teeth.
The problem with periodontitis is it is a serious infection that makes your body turn on itself. It happens when toxins created by bacterial plaque irritate your gums, initiating a chronic inflammatory response making the tissues and bone supporting your teeth break down. When the gums pull back from the teeth, the pockets formed between the teeth and gums become infected. At that point, the infection attacks those tissues and the bone material that hold your teeth in their place.
Did you know that pregnancy can lead to the early stage of gum disease (gingivitis) due to the hormonal changes in your body that aggravate plaque production? Or that smoking and tobacco use can destroy your gums? If you notice that your gums are bleeding, or your teeth are sensitive or feel loose, we encourage you to seek treatment. Our team is ready to help you restore healthy teeth and gums for a vibrant smile!