Understanding the Symptoms of Gum Disease and When to See Your Dentist
Being the 6th most prevalent disease in the world, gum disease is something that should be taken much more seriously than it often is. Also known as periodontal disease, or periodontitis, gum disease is a common condition that is caused by plaque build-up and bacteria on teeth. Irritation can occur on gums and if not treated, can result in the development of gum disease, and even increase the risk of heart disease.
Being a difficult condition to treat, the best way to tackle it is prevention and early detection. The early stage is known as gingivitis, and if treated quickly and effectively, the prognosis is usually pretty good. Therefore, it is imperative to detect and treat the condition as soon as possible.
In this article, we will highlight some of the earlier signs and symptoms of this condition and discuss the importance of oral health with respect to gum disease.
What Is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is chronic inflammation and infection of the gums and surrounding tissue. It is the cause of approximately 70 percent of tooth loss, affecting three out of four people in their lifetime.
It is caused by bacteria and plaque buildup. Plaque, which is not removed by brushing and flossing daily, hardens into a hard substance called tartar. These toxins are produced and released by bacteria in plaque which irritate the gums and cause a breakdown of fibers which hold gums tightly to teeth, creating periodontal pockets which fill with toxins and bacteria.
As the disease progresses, pockets extend deeper and the bacteria moves down until the bone that holds the tooth in place is destroyed. This eventually results in extraction or the tooth falling out on its own.
Causes of Gum Disease
The most common cause of gingivitis or periodontal disease is the accumulation of bacterial plaque around teeth. This triggers an immune response which can eventually lead to the destruction of gum tissue, along with the loss of teeth. When not removed adequately, plaque can harden into calculus, also known as tartar. When plaque reaches the stages of tartar, it can only be removed professionally. If left untreated, it can eventually irritate the gums, causing inflammation around the base of teeth.
There are several other causes and risk factors associated with gum disease. Changes in hormones, cancer, diabetes, HIV, medication, smoking, drug use, a poor diet and genetics can all play a role in the development of gum disease.
Risks of Leaving Gum Disease Untreated
Healthy gums and bone hold teeth in place. When gum disease develops and is left untreated, small pockets of infection form at the point of attachment. This is not something that is visible to the naked eye, but you may notice swelling of the gums, traces of blood on your toothbrush or a change in the color of your gums. Over time, the infection breaks down gum tissue which attaches to the teeth. If left untreated, teeth will become loose and may start to fall out.
Researchers have also discovered a link between heart disease and gum disease. People with this condition are two to three times more likely to suffer from a heart attack, stroke, or other serious cardiovascular events, however, this is not the case for everyone. Further research is being done to determine the exact relationship between the two.
Symptoms of Gum Disease to Look Out For
It is important to monitor your oral health, not only with a dentist, but at home. There are several symptoms that you can look for at home, so add a check-up to your morning or evening routine to ensure that the early signs are detected. It is your best defense to prevent irreversible damage. Here’s what to watch for:
- Sensitive, bleeding gums
- Chronic bad breath
- Receding gums
- Sensitive teeth
- Loose or shifting teeth
- Plaque buildup
Tips for Preventing Gum Disease
Regular visits to your dentist are of the utmost importance to detect and prevent early stages of gum disease. In many cases, there may not be any discomfort until the disease has progressed to a point of having to have a tooth extracted. Therefore, early detection and good oral hygiene is the key to prevention.
The Importance of Good Oral Hygiene and Regular Dental Checkups
Oral hygiene and regular periodontal dental checkups are very important. Good dental care at home is essential to keep periodontal disease at bay or having it become a more serious or recurring condition.
You don’t have to lose teeth to gum disease. By brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing, eating a balanced diet and scheduling regular dental visits, you can keep your smile healthy for a lifetime.