What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease or periodontal disease affects most adults in some degree. It is the most common cause of tooth loss for adults. Plaque which is a collection of many types of bacteria, is found normally in everyone’s mouth. It is impossible and not desirable to try and sterilize your mouth. Plaque grows extremely fast. Plaque begins repopulating the surface of your teeth and the area between the gum and the tooth within minutes after being removed. The American Academy of Periodontology lists gum disease as the primary cause of tooth loss in adults age 35 and over.
How Gum Disease Starts
Your mouth naturally produces a sticky substance called plaque. Without adequate brushing and flossing, this plaque builds up on your teeth. The bacteria in plaque produce poisons, or toxins, which irritate the gums, causing infection. As the infection increases in severity, it breaks down the bones and tissues that hold your teeth in place.
The Two Primary Stages of Gum Disease
The initial stage of gum disease, known as gingivitis, is the mildest form of the disease. If plaque accumulates on the gum tissue or between the gum and the tooth this will cause inflammation in the gum tissue known as gingivitis. Severe gingivitis will develop in less than 10 days without proper brushing and flossing. Gingivitis is reversible by seeing the hygienist and by thorough twice daily home plaque control including flossing by the patient.
Periodontitis is the type of periodontal disease characterized by the destruction of the supporting bone around the teeth. Bone loss is caused by the inflammation which develops around the teeth due to the accumulation of plaque and calculus. Calculus is dead bacteria that has been mineralized and bonded to the root surfaces. These foreign materials create a toxic surface on the roots of your teeth. The inflammation caused by these foreign materials and toxins is what destroys the bone. As bone destruction progresses down the side of the root, the gum tissue will separate from your tooth which causes “periodontal pocketing”. When pocketing exceeds 3-4mm, it is impossible for the patient to clean or access the plaque even with perfect brushing and flossing technique. During your examination your pockets will be measured by Dr. Sinks. This measurement or probing and the x-rays which show your roots will allow Dr. Sinks to make an accurate diagnosis of your periodontal health.
Signs To Watch For
Because gum disease can exist without pain or discomfort, it’s important to be aware of the possible warning signs that may indicate a problem:
- Gums that appear red or swollen
- Gums that feel tender
- Gums that bleed easily (during brushing or flossing)
- Gums that recede or pull away from the teeth
- Persistent bad breath
- Loose teeth
- Any change in the way teeth come together in the biting position
- Any change in the way partial dentures fit
If you suspect that you may be suffering from gingivitis or periodontitis, make an appointment with our office or your dentist immediately. We can diagnose the problem, determine how far the disease has progressed, and recommend an appropriate treatment.