Gum disease, aka, periodontal disease, is an affliction in the gums with oral bacteria, resulting in inflammation and irritation of the gum tissue. Unfortunately, many adults will suffer from gum disease at some point in their lives. In its early stages, it is easy to treat with basic oral hygiene practices. Still, as it worsens, it becomes harder to treat and may lead to more serious oral health problems, like loose and missing teeth. It is necessary to be on the lookout for signs of gum disease so that if they do appear, you can seek treatment as soon as possible. As with most oral health ailments, gum disease is much easier to prevent than it is to treat.
Gum Disease Symptoms
Gum disease happens in several stages. Early-stage gum disease is known as gingivitis, a term that simply means inflammation of the gums. Late-stage gum disease is known as periodontitis, a condition that refers to inflammation of the periodontal ligaments. These connective tissues anchor your teeth into your jaw bone. The symptoms of gum disease start off rather minor but become harder to overlook as the condition worsens. Here are the hallmark symptoms of both gingivitis and periodontitis.
Signs of early-stage gum disease include swelling, redness, and sensitivity in the gums. You may notice some bleeding after brushing or flossing. Your gums may also feel sore if you chew something overly tough or crunchy. Many patients with gingivitis have bad breath that does not go away with brushing, flossing, and the use of mouthwash.
As gum disease worsens, you may begin to notice pockets forming between your teeth and gums. Your teeth may start to feel like they are loose in their sockets. Bleeding will worsen, and it may look like your teeth are becoming longer as your gums recede, exposing a more substantial portion of the tooth roots. Most people with periodontitis notice that their teeth become very sensitive to heat, cold, and pressure. This is because the nerves in the tooth roots are closer to the surface, and when they are exposed by receding gums, they react strongly to stimuli.
Gum Disease Causes
There are hundreds of species of bacteria that live in your mouth, and most are harmless or even beneficial. A few, however, can cause gum disease if they become too prevalent. Treponema denticola and Porphyromonas gingivalis are the principal culprits in most gum disease cases. If you brush and floss thoroughly and regularly, you can remove these bacteria from your teeth and gums before they have a chance to cause a problem. However, when you grow lax with your dental hygiene, these bacteria proliferate, infecting your gum tissue and leading to the symptoms of gum disease. Once the bacteria work their way between your gums and your teeth, they become harder to remove.
Anyone can develop gum disease. It is seen in young children, teens, young adults, and older adults alike. However, some people are at an increased risk of gum diseases compared to others. Following are some of the more common risk factors for gum disease.
Smoking: Smoking dries out the mouth, which allows oral bacteria to proliferate, increasing the risk of gum disease.
Certain Medications: Antidepressants, steroids, and pain relievers sometimes reduce saliva production, which increases the risk of gum disease.
Diabetes: This disease decreases the body’s ability to fight off infections such as gum disease.
- Hormonal Changes: Women are at a much higher risk for developing gum disease after menopause.
- Advanced Age: Gum disease becomes more common as you age. This may be tied to an increased risk of dry mouth as you age, hormonal changes, or a lack of proper oral hygiene.
Process of Gum Disease Treatment
If you develop gum disease, it is imperative to seek prompt treatment. If left untreated, gum disease can lead to missing teeth. Researchers have also discovered a link between gum disease and heart disease. It is thought that the bacteria responsible for causing gum disease may enter the bloodstream and wreak havoc on the heart and blood vessels.
When gum disease is caught in the early stages, you can usually reverse it merely by improving your oral hygiene routine. Focus on brushing more thoroughly, using a soft toothbrush that won’t irritate your overly sensitive gums. Spend more time brushing your teeth along the gum line of your upper and lower jaw. Floss daily. If you using regular dental floss is an issue for you, use flossing picks, or a water flosser. This tool shoots water between your teeth to remove plaque and bacteria. Also, rinse your mouth out with an antiseptic mouthwash twice a day to kill any lingering bacteria.
If the methods above do not alleviate your gingivitis symptoms within a week or two, your dentist may prescribe an antibiotic gel or cream. You should also have your teeth professionally cleaned by a dental hygienist. Only a professional cleaning can remove tartar, a hardened form of plaque that often forms along the gum line and can harbor bacteria, making gingivitis harder to treat. If your gum disease is severe, your dentist may use a more intensive cleaning process called scaling and planing. For this procedure, your mouth will be numbed to prevent discomfort. Special tools will be used to scrape plaque and tartar from beneath your gum line. Your gums may be a bit sore for a few days after the procedure, so you’ll want to stick to soft foods and brush until you heal.
If you have pockets in your gums, loose teeth, receding gums, or other signs of periodontitis, your dentist will treat your gum disease more aggressively or refer you to a periodontist for one of these surgical approaches.
- Flap Surgery
This is a procedure in which the extra gum tissue is cut away, and the gums are re-stitched to get rid of any flaps. With the flaps gone, there are fewer places for oral bacteria to hide, so you’ll have an easier time fighting off gum disease with good oral hygiene and perhaps antibiotics.
- Tissue Grafts
If the bacteria have begun to erode your gums, periodontal ligaments, or the bone tissue in your jaw, your dentist may need to perform a tissue graft to replace the missing or damaged tissue. Donor tissue can be removed from the roof of your mouth and grafted where it is needed.
- Guided Bone Tissue Regeneration
One problem that can occur when your body is trying to heal from gum disease is the gum tissue growing into space that should be occupied by bone tissue. To prevent this from occurring, your dentist may perform a procedure called guided bone tissue regeneration. A unique piece of mesh is placed along the edge of your gum tissue to hold it in place and prevent it from growing into the bone space.
Cost of Gum Disease Treatment
The cost of treating gum disease varies widely based on the specific treatment your dentist recommends. If you catch gum disease early, your only treatment costs may be that of a new toothbrush, some floss, and mouthwash. Here are the average prices of more extensive gum disease treatment procedures:
- Regular dental cleaning: $65 on up
- Scaling and planing: $200+
- Bone and tissue grafts: $250+
Keep in mind that dental insurance will usually cover periodontal disease treatment. If you do not have health insurance, talk to your dentist about payment plans that may make your treatment more affordable.
Reversing Gum Disease
Gum disease is a lot easier to prevent than it is to treat. Prevention starts with good oral hygiene habits, such as brushing twice per day for two minutes, flossing after every meal, and routinely visiting your dentist at least twice a year for regular cleaning appointments. Also, avoid smoking. If you are a smoker, take steps towards quitting, such as attending support group meetings or talking to your doctor about prescription medications.
If you suffer from dry mouth, it’s vital to focus on keeping your mouth moist to prevent the onset of gum disease. Sip water throughout the day, or chew sugar-free gum to keep your saliva flowing. If you think your dry mouth may be due to a medication, talk to the doctor who prescribed the drug to see if there is an alternative medicine you can take that won’t cause this side effect. Your dentist may also prescribe a medication or rinse to increase saliva production.
Gum Disease Treatment From a Dentist Near Me
If your gums are red, swollen, sensitive, or prone to bleeding, you are probably in the early stages of gum disease. Use our convenient “dentist near me” ZIP search tool to find a local ToothHQ office near you and schedule an appointment for a checkup. You can also call (214)731-0124 to schedule your visit. Your dentist can recommend a safe, affordable treatment to get your gum disease under control before it becomes any worse.