If your dentist has told you that you have gum disease, you most certainly aren’t alone. Gum disease is estimated to affect more than half of Americans over the age of 30, although many cases go undiagnosed as the early symptoms of the condition are fairly easy to overlook or ignore. Nevertheless, if you have the symptoms of gum disease you should seek the advice of your dentist as soon as possible. This is because the condition is irreversible, and prompt treatment could prevent you from suffering pain, tooth loss and even protect your general health.
Gum disease originates on the very edge of the teeth, right alongside where the enamel meets the soft, pink tissue of the gums. The condition primarily occurs as a result of bad oral hygiene and a failure to take proper care when brushing your teeth. However, other factors have also been shown to contribute to the development of the disease, including:
- Taking certain medications.
- Hormonal changes, for example pregnant women are more likely to have sensitive gums, making it easier for gum disease to occur.
- A family history of gum disease.
- Poorly fitted veneers which don’t sit right against the gums.
- Poor lifestyle habits, such as smoking.
Many of the products that we consume contain sugar. Sometimes this is obvious sugar, such as that on the top of a donut or the lumps of sugar we place in our hot drinks. In other cases, sugar comes disguised in the form of a carbohydrate such as those found in pasta and white bread. When the sugars in the food we eat come into contact with the natural bacteria in our mouths, the two interact to produce plaque – a fine, sticky, bacteria-filled film that coats the enamel of our teeth. Plaque contains the acids that are responsible for causing tooth decay to occur.
Regular brushing is the only way to remove plaque from our teeth before it has the opportunity to cause damage. However, if you fail to brush your teeth regularly or have a particularly poor brushing technique, you will not manage to remove all of the plaque before it has the opportunity to start to eat away the outer enamel of the teeth, starting the decaying process. However, in addition to this, the plaque which tends to accumulate on the teeth along the gum line, can start to irritate the soft tissue of the gums.
Gum disease is the term given to the inflammatory condition that occurs when the bacteria present in plaque begins to penetrate the gums. When this happens it causes irritation, leading to the gums becoming swollen, red and sore. When you brush your teeth, you will probably notice that your gums are bleeding.
As the disease progresses, small gaps will open up between the edge of your teeth and gums. These are known as periodontal pockets and can trap bacteria and food debris, further contributing to the problem of gum disease. Infections and abscesses will occur. Toxins produced by the bacteria will begin to break down the bone and connective tissue that hold your teeth in place, putting you at risk of losing them.
As well as being the leading cause of tooth loss, gum disease, which is better known as periodontitis once it reaches moderate to severe levels, has also been linked to serious general health conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, liver and kidney disorders and even Alzheimer’s.
Gum disease to look out for include:
- Red, swollen and tender gums
- Bleeding when you brush your teeth, floss or eat particularly hard foods
- Gums that appear to be receding, causing your teeth to look unusually long
- Gums that are pulling away from the teeth
- Persistent bad breath
- Pus between your teeth
- Teeth that seem loose
If you suspect that you may be suffering from gum disease, please do not delay – contact us and schedule an appointment at our offices today and let us help you to protect your dental and general health.