Gum disease can lead to loss of teeth as the tissue that surrounds them begins to deteriorate. But before gum disease begins to develop (periodontitis), you may notice signs of gingivitis (gum inflammation). Gum inflammation does not always result in gum disease but if it is left untreated, the results can be disastrous as far as your teeth are concerned.
When gums become inflamed, bacteria in tooth plaque increases. You may notice your teeth bleeding when you brush them. As this point, the gums are irritated but the teeth are still firmly rooted.
When this starts to turn into gum disease, the inner layer of the gum and bone pull away from the teeth. At this point, you could soon find yourself with open pockets between teeth and gums. As debris collects within these pockets, infection sets in and the plaque begins to grow below the gum line.
At this point, toxins created by the plaque start to attack the bone and tissue around the teeth. The pockets around the teeth enlarge until the teeth are no longer held in place. Eventually they become so loose that they fall out.
The leading cause of tooth loss in many people, gum disease can be caused by hormonal changes, illness, medication, smoking and poor oral hygiene. There may also be a family history of gum disease.
The four critical signs of gum disease
Let’s take a look at four critical signs of gum disease:
- Bleeding gums – when you brush your teeth or even eat hard food such as applies, your gums may bleed.
- Bad breath – as well as having an unpleasant taste in your mouth, your breath smells badly.
- Receding gums – if you look at your teeth in the mirror, you will see that your gums are pulling back from the teeth, making your teeth look more elongated than usual.
- Loose teeth – you may notice some of your teeth wobbling or moving when you eat, causing your bite to change.
Diagnosing gum disease
The best way to deal with gum disease is to prevent it. When you go for your routine dental check-up, your dentist will check for bleeding gums, swelling, sensitivity, tooth movement, space between gums and teeth and the health of your jawbone. If gum disease is detected, it will need to be treated urgently.
The treatment of gum disease
When your dentist treats gum disease, he will be looking to bring about the reattachment of the gums to the teeth, lessen swelling, reduce the depth of the pocket around the teeth, limit infection and stop the disease progressing. Your particular treatment will depend upon what stage of the disease you are at, your general health and whether you have had treatment before. Treatment may involve either of the following:
This will be aimed and controlling and eventually eradicating the bacterial attack by using a scaling and root planing technique. The plaque will be scraped off the teeth and root surfaces. A local anaesthetic can be given to avoid discomfort. The gums will then heal and reattach to the teeth.
If the gum tissue does not reattach tightly, your dentist may recommend periodontal pocket reduction. Using this process, he will fold back the gum tissue, remove any remaining bacteria and smooth the bone. The gum tissue should then reattach to the now healthy bone.
When this is used, the gum disease is usually advanced hence supportive tissues in the gum and around the teeth will need to be restored. This can be done by using any of the following surgical therapies:
- Gum grafting – if the roots are exposed, gum tissue can be taken from another source and used to cover the roots. This will prevent sensitivity, protect from decay and halt further bone loss or gum recession.
- Bone grafting – where bone has been lost, your dentist will remove the bacteria and replace the missing bone with natural or synthetic bone, adding protein to stimulate the regrowth of tissue and bone.
After any type of treatment for gum disease, it is vital that aftercare at home is meticulous in order to prevent it from reappearing.
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