Second to cavities, gum disease (gingivitis and periodontitis, also called periodontal disease) is the most frequent oral health problem noted in adults. Gum disease is an inflammation of the gums caused by the accumulation of dental plaque and tartar.
Periodontitis may affect the bone that supports the teeth and can lead to the loss of teeth. Early gum disease is called gingivitis, and affects only the gums. When the inflammation spreads and reaches the bone, the disease has reached a more advanced stage and is called periodontitis. The supporting tissues, including the gums and bones, become inflamed.
Gum disease is caused by dental plaque. With time, plaque becomes tartar, a hard, granular substance that has to be removed by your dentist. It cannot be brushed or flossed away.
This plaque is harmful because it causes the tissue to become inflamed. This is the start of gum disease. If it goes untreated, it can have serious consequences: recurring abscesses and loss of teeth.
Brushing teeth or dentures, daily flossing, and regular visits to the dentist are the best way to prevent gum disease.
Gum disease and general health
Studies have found links between gum disease and a number of other health problems, including diabetes, respiratory disorders and heart disease.
Expectant women with gum disease are up to seven times more likely to have premature or underweight infants than women with healthy gums.
Note that gum disease is very rarely painful. Often someone can have gum disease for years without knowing. Generally they will consult their dentist because their teeth are becoming loose, and not because they hurt.
If gingivitis is left untreated, it may develop into periodontitis. At this stage, the bone that supports the teeth begins to deteriorate. If the condition remains untreated, the affected teeth become loose and must be removed.
The main factors contributing to periodontal disease are:
- inadequate dental hygiene (brushing and flossing)
- conditions that weaken the immune system, such as uncontrolled diabetes, stress, pregnancy, AIDS or leukemia
- hereditary factors
- some drugs
The presence of one or more of these factors can accelerate the progression of gum disease.
Health problems related to gum disease
Does your smile pass the test?
Ask your dentist.
To prevent the onset of gum disease and keep a healthy mouth, ask your dentist for a periodontal screening test.
Periodontal screening is a simple and effective method of assessing the condition of the gums and detecting periodontal disease. Early detection simplifies treatment and avoids potential tooth loss.
An early diagnosis can make all the difference!
Your dentist can diagnose and treat periodontal disease as soon as it appears. If necessary, more serious or advanced cases may be referred to a periodontist, a specialist in the treatment of periodontal disease.
The purpose of periodontal treatment is to restore healthy gums. It usually involves scaling (the removal of plaque and tartar build-up on teeth) and root planing (to smooth tooth roots after cleaning).
More advanced cases may call for surgical treatment. Periodontal disease cannot be treated with mouthwash or other antibacterial solutions.
Gum disease is the main cause of tooth loss in adults. Almost 75% of adults suffer from gum disease in varying degrees throughout their life.