Gum disease or periodontal disease is a chronic inflammation and infection of the gums and surrounding tissues. The infection destroys the tissues that support the teeth. These tissues include the gums, the periodontal ligament and the supporting bone. Gum disease is the major cause of about 70 per cent of tooth loss in adults and affects three out of four persons (75 per cent) at some point in time in their life.
Symptoms or warning signs of Gum Disease
bleeding gums ( blood on the tooth brush even with gentle brushing of the teeth)
bright red or reddish- purple appearance to gums
gums that are tender when touched but otherwise painless
shiny appearance of gums
pus between the gum and tooth
persistent bad breath
change in the tooth fit together on biting
changes in the fit of partial denture
Patients are advised to be vigilant and watch out for the above- mentioned warning signs. Since there may not be any discomfort until the disease has spread to a point where the tooth is unsalvageable, individuals are advised to visit their dentist frequently to get dental examinations done and meticulously follow the advice of their dentist.
What causes Gum Disease?
Bacterial plaque - a sticky, colourless film that constantly forms on the teeth - is recognized as the primary cause of Gum Disease. Specific Gum Disease may be associated with specific bacterial types. If plaque is not removed each day by brushing and flossing, it hardens into a rough and porous substance called calculus (also known as tartar). Toxins (poisons), produced and released by bacteria in plaque irritates the gums. These toxins cause the breakdown of the fibres (periodontal ligament) which hold the gums tightly to the teeth, creating periodontal pockets filled with more toxins and bacteria. As the disease progresses, pockets extend deeper and the bacteria moves down till supporting the bone, which is hence, destroyed. The tooth will eventually fall out or will require extraction.
Other factors that cause Gum Disease
Genetics is a factor as are life style choices. A diet low in nutrients can diminish the body's ability to fight infection.
Smokers and spit tobacco users have more irritation to gum tissues than non - tobacco users.
Stress also affects the ability to ward off disease.
In patients with uncontrolled diabetes, where body is more prone to infection, gum disease is more severe or harder to control.
What does treatment of Gum Disease involve?
In the early stages, most treatments involve scaling and root planning (removing plaque and calculus from around the teeth as well as smoothening the root surfaces). More advanced cases may require surgical treatment, which involves cutting the gums and removing the hardened plaque build-up and re- contouring of damaged bone beneath gums. The procedure also includes repositioning of the gum tissues so that it will be easier to clean them.
How to prevent Gum Disease?
Removing plaque through daily brushing, flossing and periodical professional cleaning is the best way to minimize the risk of Gum Disease. Sticking to a regular oral hygiene regimen, as advised by the dentist, is very important. Individuals should visit their dentist every 3-4 months (or more frequently if advised by the dentist) to ensure that their dental problem is nipped in the bud and they remain dentally fit.