Gum Disease

ExitCare ImageGum disease is an infection of the tissues that surround and support the teeth (periodontium). This includes the gums, connective tissue fibers (ligaments), and the thickened ridges of the tooth bone (sockets). The disease is caused by germs (bacteria) that grow in soft deposits (plaque) on the teeth. This results in redness, soreness, and swelling (inflammation). This inflammation causes the gums to bleed. If left untreated, it can lead to damage of the tissues and supportive bone. Although bacteria are known as the major cause of gum disease, other risk factors include tobacco use, diabetes, certain medications, hormones, pregnancy, and genetic factors.

SYMPTOMS

  • Gums that bleed easily.

  • Red or swollen gums.

  • Bad breath that does not go away.

  • Gums that have pulled away from the teeth.

  • Loose or separating permanent teeth.

  • Painful chewing.

  • Changes in the way your teeth fit together.

DIAGNOSIS

A thorough exam will be performed by a dentist to determine the presence and stage of gum disease. The stage is how far the gum disease has developed.

TREATMENT

Treatment is based on the stages of gum disease. The stages include:

  • Mild. If it is caught early, conditions can improve by brushing and flossing properly.

  • Moderate. You may need special cleaning (scaling and root planing). This method removes plaque and hardened plaque (tartar) above and below the gum line. Medication may also be used to treat moderate gum disease.

  • Severe. This stage requires surgery of the gums and supporting bone.

PREVENTION

You can prevent gum disease by:

  • Practicing good oral hygiene, including brushing and flossing properly.

  • Avoiding use of tobacco products.

  • Scheduling regular dental check-ups and cleanings.

  • Eating a well-balanced diet.

SEEK IMMEDIATE DENTAL OR MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You have fever over 102° F (38.9° C).

  • You have swelling of your face, neck, or jaw.

  • You are unable to open your mouth.

  • You have severe pain not controlled by pain medicine.