Gum disease is a broad term often heard in commercials for toothpaste and other dental advertisements, but rarely is a specific definition given to what gum disease actually is. Gum disease is an infection of the gums and other tissues around your mouth that support your teeth. Something that makes gum disease so dangerous is that it is often painless, and easy to not notice if you have it. The primary cause of gum disease is plaque, which is the sticky film of bacteria that forms on your teeth constantly.
There are some warning signs to look out for if you are concerned you may be at risk for gum disease:
- The gums bleed easily, especially when brushing
- Gums are more red than usual, or are tender
- If the gums are receding away from the teeth anywhere
- Constant bad taste in the mouth, or bad breath
- Any changes in how your teeth fit together when biting
Many things can make you more susceptible to gum disease, they include:
- Generally poor oral hygiene
- Smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco
- Misaligned teeth that are difficult to clean
- Some medications may have side effects that make you more susceptible to gum disease such as cancer therapy drugs, or oral contraceptives
If gum disease is caught in its early stages, it is much easier to treat than if left alone. The earliest stages of gum disease are called Gingivitis. In this stage, gums may be red, swollen, and bleed easily. Gingivitis is easily treatable with a professional cleaning and daily brushing and flossing.
If gum disease is allowed to progress past Gingivitis, the next stage is called Periodontitis. In this stage, loss of supporting tissue and bone structure around the teeth can occur, worsening over time. Periodontitis affects nearly 50% of adults over the age of 30 in the United States, and is generally a slow progressing disease, but can progress rapidly at times, if corrective action isn’t taken.
Aggressive periodontitis is the most advanced form of periodontal disease in which massive loss of bone and tissue in the mouth occurs, and can happen in the entire mouth.
Gum disease is one of the most important reasons to have routine dental check-ups, since it can show no warning signs and cause no pain. Treatment of gum disease is dependent on the patient, and how far along the disease has been allowed to progress. Maintaining good home dental practices can go a long way in helping prevent gum disease from occurring, or progressing.