Everyone wants an amazing smile but unfortunately in our quest for brighter, whiter teeth we sometimes forget about our gums. Gum disease is a surprisingly common oral health problem and unfortunately, it’s easy to overlook. The trouble is that gum disease is often painless and like a silent assassin, it can catch you unawares. It’s vital to recognise gum disease symptoms and get treatment fast otherwise the consequences could be extremely serious since gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.
Gum Disease Symptoms
Gum disease affects most people at some point in their lives and often symptoms don’t appear until the disease is at an advanced stage (periodontal disease). However, signs to watch out for include:
- Gums that bleed when you brush your teeth, floss, or eat crunchy food
- Red, tender or swollen gums or other pain in the mouth
- Persistent bad breath
- Gums that are pulling away or receding from the teeth, causing them to look longer
- Sores in your mouth
- Loose teeth
- A change in how your partial dentures fit
- Pus between your gums and teeth
- A change in how your teeth come together
So, what causes gum disease?
Bacteria is present in the sticky film (plaque) that forms on our teeth and gum line and when this is allowed to build-up on the teeth and particularly the gum line, it hardens into tartar. This irritates the gums and causes an infection which manifests into swollen red gums that bleed easily.
This is the mildest form of gum disease (gingivitis) and usually, at this stage, people generally feel little or no discomfort. Often gingivitis is caused by poor oral health but fortunately, it can be reversed with a clean from your dentist or hygienist and improved oral care at home.
Besides these visible gum disease symptoms, other factors that contribute to gum disease include:
- Systemic diseases
- Hormonal fluctuations
- HIV infection and,
- certain medications.
While it mightn’t seem particularly problematic at this stage, without treatment, gingivitis can escalate into a more serious condition known as periodontal disease.
The Effects of Periodontal Disease
Periodontitis is the most advanced stage of gum disease and its effects can be devastating. As the toxins in the bacteria continue to irritate the gums, the body responds with a chronic inflammatory reaction that causes the tissue and bones that support the teeth to be broken down and destroyed.
The gums start to recede and pockets form in between the gums and the tooth root which becomes infected. As the disease escalates, the pockets get deeper and more bone and gum tissue is destroyed. Often the symptoms are mild and fail to cause concern. However, over time the teeth will loosen and may have to be extracted or will fall out of their own accord.
Treatments and techniques
While periodontitis can be treated, your dentist will have to use more invasive techniques. These include scraping and deep cleaning the surfaces of the tooth roots to remove bacteria as well as removing plaque from below the gumline.
Patients will be given a local anaesthetic to ease their discomfort but may have to undergo several sessions until the level of bacteria is at a more acceptable level and good oral health is restored.
Our experienced dentist will also create a maintenance program that involves adopting a calcium-rich diet including foods such as cheese, fish and green leafy vegetables, as well as a developing good brushing and flossing regime.
If tissue and bone loss has occurred, you may be referred to a specialist periodontist. They have specialised training in periodontal disease treatment and provide a variety of treatments including:
- Gum graft surgery – This can be used to cover the tooth roots and develop gum tissue in areas affected by the gingival recession to reduce further recession or bone loss
- Regenerative procedures – These are typically recommended when bone loss has occurred and involves the removal of bacteria from the gum tissue. Then, using a bone graft or tissue-stimulating proteins, tissue and bone can be regenerated
- Pocket reduction procedures – The gum tissue is folded back and bacteria is removed before the tissue is secured back in place
- Dental Implants – Periodontists specialise in dental implants and can work with a dentist to create a treatment plan that will replace your missing teeth and restore your smile
Keep your guard up
Even if you think your mouth looks spotless and you aren’t displaying any of the above signs, you could still have a degree of gum disease. Some people only get gum disease in certain teeth such as the molars which is why it’s so important to visit a dentist for regular check-ups. He or she can diagnose and assess the progress of the disease, treat it and stop it in its tracks.
Gingivitis and the progression of gum disease can almost always be reversed when proper plaque control is exercised. Working as a team, you and your dentist can keep your mouth free from gum disease to help you keep your teeth for longer.
If you suspect you may have gum disease symptoms or you’re long overdue a check-up why not book an appointment with the friendly experienced dental team at Dental 266. Call us on 02 9051 0600 or book an appointment online.