Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a bacterial infection that affects the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth. It is a common oral health condition and is one of the leading causes of tooth loss in adults. Gum disease typically progresses in stages, starting with mild inflammation and, if left untreated, can advance to more severe forms.
Main types of gum disease
- Gingivitis: This is the early stage of gum disease and is characterized by inflammation of the gums. It is primarily caused by the buildup of plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that forms on the teeth. Symptoms of gingivitis include red, swollen, and tender gums, as well as bleeding during brushing or flossing. However, at this stage, the bone and connective tissues that hold the teeth in place are usually unaffected. Gingivitis is reversible with proper oral hygiene and professional dental care.
- Periodontitis: If gingivitis is left untreated, it can progress to periodontitis. In this stage, the infection spreads below the gumline, causing the gums to pull away from the teeth and form spaces called pockets. Bacteria can then accumulate in these pockets and cause further damage. As the body’s immune response tries to fight the infection, it can lead to the breakdown of the bone and connective tissues supporting the teeth. Over time, the teeth may become loose and may even need to be removed. Periodontitis requires professional intervention from a dentist or periodontist to manage and prevent further damage.
Several factors can increase the risk of developing gum disease, including poor oral hygiene, tobacco use, hormonal changes (such as during pregnancy), certain medications, genetic predisposition, and systemic conditions like diabetes. Regular brushing and flossing, along with routine dental check-ups and professional cleanings, are essential for preventing and managing gum disease.
If you suspect you have gum disease or are experiencing symptoms such as bleeding gums, it is important to consult a dentist for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Early detection and intervention can help prevent the progression of gum disease and maintain optimal oral health.
It’s effect to your overall health
Research has shown associations between gum disease and several systemic health conditions. The following are some ways gum disease may affect overall health:
Cardiovascular health: Studies have suggested a link between gum disease and an increased risk of heart disease, including conditions like coronary artery disease and stroke.
Diabetes: People with diabetes are more susceptible to gum disease, and gum disease can make it more difficult to control blood sugar levels. The relationship between gum disease and diabetes appears to be bidirectional, with each condition influencing the other.
Respiratory health: Bacteria from gum disease can be inhaled into the lungs, potentially causing or exacerbating respiratory problems such as pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This is particularly relevant for individuals with compromised immune systems.
What are the symptoms?
Gum disease can present with various symptoms, and the severity of these symptoms may depend on the stage of the disease. Here are common signs and symptoms of gum disease:
- Red or inflamed gums
- Receding gums
- Gums that bleed easily, particularly during brushing or flossing
- Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth
- Loose teeth
How to prevent gum disease?
Preventing gum disease involves maintaining good oral hygiene practices and adopting healthy habits. Here are some essential steps to help prevent gum disease:
- Brush your teeth properly
- Floss daily
- Maintain a balanced diet
- Avoid tobacco products
- Visit your dentist regularly
Remember, prevention is key when it comes to gum disease. If you are experiencing any symptoms, call Fontana Dental Care today for a thorough evaluation.