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What is Gum Disease ?

   

Introduction

Cause of Gum Disease

Types of Gum Disease

Reasons to see your Dentist immediately

Stages of Gum Disease

Prevention

Resources

 


Introduction

Normal gums are pink in color and have a sharp outline. They generally do not bleed on brushing.

2
(noraml gums)

Gum disease is the most common cause of tooth loss. Gums gradually shrink as people age. After age 35, about three out of four adults are affected by some form of gum disease. It is a slowly progressing infection and is mostly painless in the early stages, and hence most people do not pay any attention to it till it is too late. But it is a totally preventable disease, and can be treated if caught early.

Cause of Gum Disease

Gum disease is caused by plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth. If this plaque is not removed on a daily basis, it will get mineralized to form a stony crust called calculus or tartar. It is not possible for you to remove this calculus - your dentist will use a special instrument called a scaler to remove it. These bacteria create toxins that can damage the gums and bone.

Gum disease can be divided into two stages:

  • Gingivitis
  • Periodontitis

    Gingivitis is a superficial infection of the gums. Some or all of the following signs may be present:

  1. Redness and swelling
  2. Bleeding gums
  3. Bad breath odor that doesn't go away

To prevent gingivitis you need to do is keep the bacterial populations in balance by flossing, brushing, and rinsing daily with an anti-microbial rinse which removes excess bacteria. Proper home dental care can remove plaque. Professional cleanings during routine dental visits remove tartar which harbors and nurtures the proliferation of the undesirable bacteria. If left unchecked, however, gingivitis may progress to periodontal disease

Periodontitis is an infection of the underlying bone. Periodontal disease is primarily caused by a "silent" and "painless" bacterial infection of the bone and ligaments which hold the teeth in place. Symptoms often do not appear until later stages. Some of the signs may be:

  1. Spacing between teeth
  2. Mobility of teeth
  3. Receding gums
  4. Pain or other discomfort

When enough bone has been lost, the tooth will become loose. The progress of the disease depends on individual health and resistance to disease. There may be no activity for years, and then when resistance decreases temporarily, gum disease appears or flares-up.

See your Dentist immediately if you notice:

  • gums bleed when you brush your teeth
  • red, swollen or tender gums
  • gums have pulled away from the teeth
  • bad breath that doesn't go away
  • pus between your teeth and gums
  • loose teeth
  • a change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  • a change in the fit of partial dentures

Stages of Gum Disease

Normal, healthy gums
Healthy gums and bone anchor teeth firmly in place.
Gingivitis
Gums red and swollen. Slight separation of gum from teeth but attachment to teeth still intact.

Periodontitis
Unremoved, plaque hardens into calculus (tartar). As plaque and calculus continue to build up, the gums begin to recede (pull away) from the teeth, and pockets form between the teeth and gums.

With advanced disease the gums recede farther, destroying more bone and the periodontal ligament. Teeth — even healthy teeth — may become loose and need to be extracted.

Modified from ADA- "Gum Disease" 1

Prevention

It is very important to not allow calculus to form on your teeth, simply by brushing the plaque off on a daily basis. Floss can be used to remove plaque that forms in-between teeth.

The only way you can detect gum disease is by going for regular dental check-ups. Your dentist will check for disease signs with a probe as well as with x-rays. Only a professional can diagnose gum disease in it's early stages, when it is easiest to treat. Prevention and treatment of gum disease involves the combined efforts of your dentist and yourself. Your dentist will remove the calculus present on your teeth. He will also check for other contributing factors - defective fillings, crowns, bite problems, etc. He will explain the correct method of brushing and flossing, and will provide maintenance care after the initial treatment. You are required to put in your efforts towards daily brushing and flossing, and following other instructions.

 

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Resources

  1. "Gum Disease" from American Dental Association (ADA): http://www.ada.org
  2. "What is Gum Disease?" http://members.rediff.com/deepakvaswani/gumdisease.htm

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