As a Stoneham dentist, I have found that many of my patients are quite unaware of what gum disease is and what actually causes it. This fact is true even for those that are suffering from the condition. Like many diseases, the first step to prevention is education. My intent of writing this article is to make people aware of the causes of gingivitis (gum disease), its symptoms, and how it can be avoided. Equipped with this knowledge, people can avoid the suffering and treatment that comes with this kind of dental complication.
Essentially, gingivitis is the earliest stage of periodontal disease. It is the only phase of periodontal disease that is reversible. If it is left untreated, like most diseases, the condition will get worse. The infection will move from the gum tissue and start to affect not only the gums, but the bone, ligaments, and the support system of our teeth. Gum disease, also known as periodontitis, is the result of plaque left on the teeth and gum tissue for long periods of time. The combination of food debris, mucus, and bacteria can also contribute to tooth decay.
Failing to remove plaque allows it time to harden. Once hardened, the substance is known as tartar. The tartar is more easily trapped between the gums and the tooth. The foreign substance causes the gums to become inflamed. As the tartar remains in this position, it begins to produce toxins that can cause the gums themselves to become infected, swell, and be susceptible to bleeding. My patients are at the highest level of risk when they do not maintain their dental hygiene, have a compromised immune system, or suffer from uncontrolled diabetes.
The first signs of a problem are tender and bleeding gums. Discoloration to the effect of red and purple tissue is another good indicator. Some people do have naturally sensitive gums. However, should the gums be painless unless touched, it is likely that gum disease is beginning to set in. Severe cases can cause patients to develop sores in the mouth and around the gums. Testing for the actual disease usually requires nothing more than a close visual inspection and a determination of the gum sensitivity to touch.
Patients are relieved to learn that the treatment of gum disease is mild; however, this should not lessen their concern. Complications can include Trench mouth or abscesses should the condition go untreated. I perform a professional cleaning and insist that the patient maintain strict oral hygiene for two to four weeks. During this period, the swelling reduces and the discomfort subsides. Excessive swelling can be addressed by gargling warm saltwater. Individuals hoping to avoid gum disease should floss daily and brush twice each day. Those that are highly susceptible to plaque build-up should consider using an electric toothbrush or a waterpic in addition to their regular routine.