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Gum disease or periodontal disease is an infection of the gums surrounding your teeth. It is one of the top reasons for tooth loss in adults, and because can be virtually pain free, many patients do not know they have the disease. During each regular checkup, your dentist will check for signs of periodontal disease by measuring the space between your teeth and gums.
What Causes Gum Disease?
Gum disease is caused by a buildup of plaque on the teeth. Without flossing, brushing, and regular dental checkups, plaque will continue to build up and create toxins that can damage the gums. Periodontal disease forms just below the gum line and can create small pockets that separate the gums from the teeth. Periodontal disease has two stages: gingivitis and periodontitis.
Gingivitis — this is the early stage of gum disease, when the gums become red and swollen, and bleed easily. At this stage, the disease is treatable and daily brushing and flossing can usually eliminate it.
Periodontitis — If left untreated, gingivitis will advance into periodontitis, and the gums and bone that support the teeth will become seriously and irreversibly damaged. Gums infected with periodontitis can cause teeth to become loose, fall out, or require removal by a dentist.
Certain factors can increase a patient’s risk of developing periodontal disease, including:
Smoking or using chewing tobacco
Medication such as steroids, anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, calcium channel blockers, and oral contraceptives
Bridges that no longer fit properly
While it is possible to have periodontal disease and not know it, some symptoms can include:
Gums that bleed easily
Red, swollen, tender gums
Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
Persistent bad breath or bad taste
Pus between your teeth and gums
Permanent teeth that are loose or separating
Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
Any change in the fit of partial dentures
Treating Gum Disease
Treatments for gum disease can vary depending on the severity of each individual case. Typical treatments include:
Non-surgical treatments such as at-home periodontal trays, and scaling and root planing (deep cleaning)
Periodontal surgery and laser gum surgery
Preventing Gum Disease
Regular dental checkups and periodontal examinations are important for maintaining your health and the health of your smile. By practicing good oral hygiene at home, you can significantly reduce your chances of ever getting periodontal disease. Remember to brush regularly, clean between your teeth, eat a balanced diet, and schedule regular dental visits to help keep your smile healthy.