Gum disease, otherwise referred to as periodontal disease is easily the commonest dental disease which plagues adults today. Gum disease can start with the growth of bacteria in the mouth and if left unchecked, can lead to sores, bleeding and even tooth loss. This is because the bacteria attacks and ends up destroying the tissues that surround the gum. Gum disease usually advances without giving out any signs and symptoms thus it might be hard to detect until it has begun to cause noticeable damage.
In its earlier stage, gum disease manifests as gingivitis or gum inflammation. When bacteria build up on the teeth due to poor oral hygiene, plaque appears and continue to build up. This can cause the gums to become inflamed and they can start bleeding when you attempt to brush your teeth. At this stage though, there is no serious damage to the teeth as the gum is only irritated but the teeth is firmly planted still at its socket. In a situation where gingivitis is left unchecked, periodontal disease may then develop. This can lead to tooth loss in the long run.
This is because the immune system of the body would normally want to fight off the invading bacteria. This is done by the release of some enzymes by the immune system. Now, the bacteria, on the other hand, would be releasing toxins to harm the gum tissues all the more. A combination of this bacteria toxins and enzymes from the immune system only serves to further destroy the connective tissues and bones that hold the teeth in place, ultimately leading to tooth loss. The most cases of tooth loss in adults are caused by gum disease.
The Cause of Gum Disease
The biggest culprit of gum disease is bacteria in plaque. When bacteria is penetrating the gum, the collar of small gum tissues that are found surrounding the base of each tooth forms a tiny pocket. This environment is usually warm and dark and that creates an excellent abode for bacteria and tartar to penetrate deeper and then their toxins begin to seep into the collar base.
This is when early inflammation occurs and the gums begin to bleed. When left untreated, the bacteria ends up creating an infection that becomes chronic in the gum collar. This causes the bones surrounding the teeth to deteriorate with the bacteria further gaining inroads to the gums. During this stage as the bones are dissolving, no discomfort is felt even though the gums are a little tender at this point.
Signs of looseness and even pain can begin to appear after 50 or more percent of the bones must have disappeared. Bones that surround the teeth do not undergo regeneration, so when there is a bone loss it is permanent. This makes it even harder to control the situation and tooth loss would eventually occur when a case becomes advanced.
Apart from direct bacteria attack, there are other factors that can cause gum disease. Smoking is one such factor. Smoking not only causes gum disease but also hampers the success of treatment when it’s given. Illnesses such as cancer or HIV infection can also cause gum disease because they can significantly lower the immunity level of the body. Hormonal changes can cause gum disease in girls and women. Diabetes is also another risk factor and medications taken for diabetes can cause the flow of saliva to reduce leading to dry mouth which is conducive for bacteria growth. Genetic factors also put one at risk. Bad oral hygiene too plays a role in causing gum disease.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Gum Disease
Gum disease is usually diagnosed by looking out for swelling, gum bleeding and checking for pocket depths by the dentist. The dentist would also check for a correct teeth alignment, teeth movements, and sensitivity. Lastly, in order to detect if there is a breakdown of bones surrounding yourself teeth, your jawbone would be checked.
In a case where inflammation is at an advanced level and has led to the sizable bone loss, a proactive measure must be taken in putting a stop to the destruction. Numbing the gums gently during deep cleaning by a dentist for the sake of comfort is suggested. Carrying out cleaning meticulously on a single area at a time, the dentist carefully takes out all infected collar surrounding each tooth. This includes hardened tartar. This is done using ultrasonic equipment and the hand. Lastly, polishing of the teeth is done to take out stains and plaques. This is done over several visits to the dentist.
In more severe cases, your dentist would refer you to a periodontist who would administer periodontal therapy to manage the situation. Gum disease can only be contained but cannot be completely healed.
Gum Disease and General Health
Having gum disease can increase the risk of developing other serious ailments. Bacteria found in the mouth can inadvertently cause ailments such as heart disease, respiratory disease, cancer, stroke, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease. Gum disease can also make diabetes worse in people that have it. When the gum bleeds, these bacteria can make their way into the bloodstream and from there damages can begin to occur.
How to Prevent Gum Disease
There are a number of ways to prevent gum disease from getting the better of you. Some of these include;
- Brushing and flossing your teeth every day – A good oral hygiene practice can improve your oral health and make you less susceptible to gum disease.
- Avoid smoking of tobacco – Smoking can cause gum disease and also hamper treatment.
- Getting proper nutrition – Eating a balanced diet can help to boost the immune system and contribute to general health.
- Cut down on stressful activities – Stress can affect the body’s immune system negatively making it hard to combat bacteria attack.
- The importance of visiting your dentist for a regular checkup and teeth cleaning cannot be overemphasized.
Gum disease may be widespread and quite destructive, but you can play your part to ensure you do not fall a victim. Endeavor to take care of your oral health by employing good oral hygiene practices. Most of all remember, your dentist is your friend.