You’ve almost certainly heard of gum disease. This condition is as common as a dental cavity and can have just as many consequences for the function and appearance of your smile and oral health.
Through the day, a thin, sticky film forms on our teeth. This film is called plaque and contains countless bacteria. It occurs as a result of the interaction between the bacteria naturally found in our mouths and sugars in the food and drinks we consume. Unless we clean it away by brushing and flossing our teeth, it can build up on the teeth, causing them to feel furry or slippery when we run our tongue across them.
The bacteria found in the plaque produce acids. These acids erode the enamel of teeth and cause cavities. They can also irritate the soft tissue of the gums and eventually penetrate them to cause infection. This is what causes the swelling and inflammation that characterizes the earliest stages of gum disease.
The initial, mild symptoms associated with gum disease may make it seem like it’s not a serious condition. However, it is progressive, meaning that the effects will get considerably worse unless prompt treatment is sought. In cases of advanced gum disease, tooth loss and jaw bone deterioration can occur. Studies have even uncovered a link between severe gum disease and chronic health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and more.
Fortunately, gum disease can be diagnosed fairly easily, either by your dentist or hygienist. Some of the symptoms that they will be looking for will include:
Inflamed, swollen, or red gums
Gums that bleed when you brush your teeth or eat something hard
Changes in the texture of your gums, when they should be smooth and shiny instead
Gums that are receding away from the teeth
Pockets/gaps forming between the gums and teeth
Persistent bad breath
Infection/abscesses forming around the teeth
Wobbly or loose teeth
These are all fairly good indicators of gum disease and the further it progresses, the more symptoms you are likely to experience.
If gum disease is detected in the earliest stages, it may be possible to reverse it. This is done using a combination of a vigorous at-home oral hygiene routine and regular appointments for professional cleans with your hygienist. Only a professional dental clean can remove tartar (hardened plaque) from the faces of the teeth. This is sometimes known as a scale and polish.
Unfortunately, if your gum disease has progressed beyond the initial stages, you may need more invasive treatment to restore the health and condition of your gums. This could include:
This is a deep clean that extends under the gumline to remove bacteria from the roots of your teeth. Since it involves going under the gums, a local anesthetic is provided to keep you comfortable. Once the area is clean, the roots are smoothed to make it easier for the gum tissue to reattach to it.
Sometimes it is necessary for patients to have antibiotics to help treat an active infection in the gums. These are usually taken orally, and it is important to finish the course.
In some very severe cases of gum disease, surgery may be needed to remove diseased tissue and restore the gums around the base of the teeth. This is usually done using a local anesthetic, though it may also be possible for you to be sedated if you are particularly anxious about the procedure. It may also be necessary to graft some tissue onto the gums to restore them.
If you are concerned about the health and condition of your gums or want to learn more about gum disease, schedule an appointment with our knowledgeable and skilled dental team at Tulane Family Dentistry in New Orleans, Louisiana at (504) 226-5740 today!