Gum disease is a common dental condition characterised by inflammation and infection of the gums and supporting tissues of the teeth. It is a progressive condition that, if left untreated, can lead to serious oral health issues.
There are two main types of Gum disease
Gingivitis – This is the less extreme type of infection. Symptoms may include red, swollen, and bleeding gums, especially during brushing or flossing.
Gingivitis can be cured with diligent brushing, flossing and use of mouthwash. It often persists for many months even when we brush and floss every day.
Periodontitis/Periodontal disease – This is the more advanced type of gum infection. It often develops from gingivitis left untreated, but occasionally develops on its own. The periodontal infection includes an additional type of bacteria over the bacteria infection of gingivitis.
While very early-stage periodontal disease can sometimes be cured by the dentist, most periodontal disease becomes a permanent condition. The dentist can provide ongoing treatment, but not a cure.
Causes of Gum Disease
- Plaque Build-up: The primary cause of gum disease is the accumulation of plaque on teeth. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth and, if not removed through regular oral hygiene practices, can lead to gum inflammation.
- Poor Oral Hygiene: Inadequate brushing and flossing habits can allow plaque to accumulate, increasing the risk of gum disease.
- Tobacco and alcohol Use: Smoking and the use of other tobacco products are significant risk factors for gum disease. These substances can interfere with the healing process of gum tissue. Alcohol can also exacerbate the risk, though moderate alcohol use seems to be acceptable.
- Genetics: Some individuals may be more predisposed to gum disease due to genetic factors that affect their immune response to bacteria.
- Hormonal Changes: Hormonal fluctuations, such as those during pregnancy or menopause, can make gums more susceptible to inflammation.
Symptoms of Gum Disease
- Receding Gums: As gum disease progresses, gums may start to pull away from the teeth, creating pockets where bacteria can accumulate.
- Persistent Bad Breath: Chronic bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth can be indicative of gum disease.
- Sensitive or Loose Teeth: As gum disease advances, teeth may become loose or sensitive to hot or cold temperatures.
- Changes in Bite: Severe cases of gum disease can lead to changes in the way teeth fit together.
- Professional Cleaning: In the early stages of gum disease, a professional cleaning known as scaling and root planing can remove plaque and tartar build-up.
- Medication: Antibiotics or antimicrobial mouth rinses may be prescribed to help control bacterial infection.
- Surgical Procedures: In advanced cases, procedures like gum grafts or flap surgery may be necessary to repair damaged gum tissue.
- Lifestyle Changes: Quitting smoking, adopting a proper oral hygiene routine, and maintaining a balanced diet can help manage and prevent gum disease.
- Regular Check-ups: Routine dental visits for cleanings and check-ups are essential for early detection and management of gum disease.
It’s important to note that early intervention is crucial in preventing the progression of gum disease. Left untreated, it can lead to tooth loss and even impact systemic health, potentially contributing to conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
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Gum disease is a common dental condition that can have serious implications if not addressed promptly. Understanding its causes, recognising its symptoms, and seeking appropriate treatment can help maintain optimal oral health and overall well-being. Regular dental check-ups play a vital role in early detection and effective management of gum disease.
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