Periodontal (gum) disease
What is gum disease?
Gingivitis is the simplest form of gum disease., is often a reaction to a build up of plaque on the teeth. It is often a reaction to a build-up of plaque on the teeth. This plaque is a soft, sticky, substance made up of bacteria. If plaque has been present for some time it hardens and is called tartar or calculus. Early signs of disease include bleeding of the gums, which may also look red or swollen. Simple treatment of gingivitis includes brushing twice a day and using floss and mouthwash, as advised by your dentist.
Gum disease can progress to include the tissues which hold the teeth in place. These tissues start to break down and pockets in the gum form around the teeth which allow even more plaque to accumulate. This stage is called chronic periodontitis. Although usually painless, it can become quite severe if not treated resulting in teeth becoming loose, appearing to move position or even falling out.
Symptoms to watch out for are:
- Gums that have receded
- Persistent bleeding
- Pus between the teeth and gums
- Persistent bad breath or bad taste
- Permanent teeth that are loose or are changing position.
Scaling and polishing by the dentist can greatly help to remove tartar and stains. It is recommended to have a scale and polish every six months This will help you to keep your mouth clean. In more severe cases of gum disease, deep cleaning or root debridement below the gum line by a periodontist may be necessary. Occasionally surgery is required in which the foundations are treated under local anesthetic.
Who gets gum disease?
Gum disease can start when you are a child, but chronic periodontitis is normally only a problem in adults. Some people are more likely to have periodontal disease than others:
- Crooked teeth are more difficult to keep clean, so the gums supporting such teeth might be more prone to gum disease. Smoking makes gum disease considerably worse. Quitting smoking is important for your general and mouth health.
- Certain drugs and medicines can affect your gums: ask your dentist about these. Diabetes and some other diseases reduce people’s resistance to gum disease. People who have these conditions need to be especially careful about their mouth hygiene.
- Existing gum disease can be worsened by hormonal changes, due to pregnancy or oral contraceptives (the pill). Here again, good hygiene is important.
- Eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables helps resist gum diseases.
Am I likely to suffer from gum disease?
Probably. Most people 90% suffer from some form of gum disease, and it is the major cause of tooth loss in adults. However, the disease develops very slowly in most cases, and it can be slowed down to a rate that should allow you to keep most of your teeth for life provided it is seen early.
What is the cause of gum disease?
Nearly all gum disease is caused by plaque. Plaque is a film of bacteria which forms on the surface of the teeth and gums every day. Many of the bacteria in plaque are completely harmless, but there are some that have been shown to cause gum disease. To prevent and treat gum disease, you need to make sure you remove all the plaque from your teeth every day. This is done by brushing and flossing.
What happens if gum disease is not treated?
Unfortunately, gum disease progresses painlessly, on the whole so that you do not notice the damage it is doing. However, the bacteria is sometimes more active, and this makes your gums sore. This can lead to gum abscesses, and pus may ooze from around the teeth. Over a number of years, the bone supporting the teeth can be lost. If the disease is left untreated for a long time, treatment can become more difficult and in some cases hopeless.
How do I know if I have gum disease?
Blood on the toothbrush or in the rinsing water when you clean your teeth can be an early sign. Your gums may also bleed when you are eating, and leave a bad taste in your mouth. Your breath may also become unpleasant.
What do I do if I think I have gum disease?
The first thing to do is visit your dentist. The dentist can measure the health and integrity of your gums, and any pocketing around each tooth to see if there is any sign that periodontal disease has started. X-rays may also be needed to see the amount of bone that has been lost. Monkstown Dental Surgery is fortunate to have the services of a specialist in gum disease available.
What treatments are needed?
Your dentist will usually give your teeth a thorough clean. You’ll also be shown how to remove plaque successfully yourself, cleaning all the surfaces of your teeth thoroughly and effectively. This may take a number of sessions with the dentist or hygienist.
Cardiovascular disease is a broad term to describe a range of diseases that affect your heart and blood vessels and can cause heart complications such as chest pain or stroke. If you have bleeding gums it means that there is an open blood vessel allowing bacteria from your teeth to enter into your blood stream.
- If bacteria get into the bloodstream they can stick to the inside of the blood vessels and contribute to narrowing of blood vessels (atherosclerosis) reducing blood flow back to the heart.
- Bacteria can also increase the formation of blood clots. These blood clots can travel around the blood stream until they get stuck in a blood vessel preventing blood flow back to the heart (causing heart attack) or brain (causing stroke).
Diabetes Mellitus is a disorder in which blood sugar (glucose) levels are abnormally high. This can lead to nerve damage, blood vessel damage and increased risk of infection.
- When the levels of sugar in the blood are high, the cells in the blood stream that kill bacteria (white blood cells) cannot work properly. The body therefore becomes less able to fight infections.
- If the sugar level is not controlled properly in a patient with Diabetes Mellitus it will lead to higher than normal levels of sugar in the mouth therefore encouraging the growth of the gum disease-causing bacteria.
Other problems associated with gum disease include development of arthritis and low birth weight babies and pulmonary disease (lung disease). The reasons why these problems occur are not clear.
Tips for a Healthy Mouth
- Brush where the teeth and gums meet, twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste
- Change your toothbrush when the bristles become flattened
- Clean between your teeth with floss or interdental brushes everyday.
- Avoid sugary snacks between meals
- Do not smoke
- Visit your own dentist and dental hygienist regularly
If you are a dentist who would like to refer a patient to Dr. Galassi for periodontal or implant treatment, please download referral form.