Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is a bacterial infection of the gums. It develops when plaque and tartar accumulate on the teeth, along the gum line, pushing the gums away from the surface of the teeth. This creates warm, moist, dark pockets where harmful bacteria thrive.
Gum disease causes painful symptoms inside the mouth. Left untreated, bacteria from gum disease can enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body, causing and/or worsening a variety of serious systemic health problems such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dementia, reproductive health problems, and more.
To safeguard the health of your teeth, gums, and body, it’s imperative that you take good care of your teeth and gums to prevent gum disease and also be aware of the signs and symptoms of gum disease to ensure you get treatment right away should you develop a gum infection.
4 Common Signs You Have Gum Disease
1. Gums That Bleed Easily
Healthy gums have a pale pink color and should hug your teeth snuggly.
Infected gums not only bleed easily when you brush or floss your teeth but also tend to be swollen, bright-red or even purple in appearance, and tender or downright painful. If you have periodontal disease, you might also notice pus coming from your gums or from between your teeth.
2. Persistent Bad Breath
Bacteria stink. When your gums are infected, you have more bacteria present in your mouth than normal which causes bad breath that is worse than usual and difficult to combat with normal measures like brushing your teeth, flossing, and using mouthwash.
3. Tooth Sensitivity
Periodontal disease causes gums to pull away from the teeth, exposing the more sensitive portion of your teeth called dentin. As a result, you might start to experience tooth sensitivity that causes searing pain when your teeth are exposed to hot or cold temperatures.
4. Your Bite Feels Different
Periodontal disease not only affects your gums but can also harm your teeth, periodontal ligaments, and jawbone.
As your gums pull away from your teeth and the bacterial infection moves deeper below your gum line, the bacteria begin to break down your periodontal ligaments and deteriorate your jawbone.
This causes teeth to become loose, to shift around more than normal, and can lead to malocclusion by changing the way your bite feels when you close your teeth together.
Gum Disease Risk Factors
The following risk factors might make you more likely to develop gum disease:
- Family history of gum disease
- Vitamin deficiency
- Having a compromised immune system
- Cardiovascular disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Crohn’s disease
- Tobacco use of any kind
- Recreational drug use
- Poor oral hygiene habits
- Certain medications that cause dry mouth
- Certain hormonal changes like those that occur during pregnancy and menopause
If you fall into any of these risk categories, you should strive to be extra-vigilant about your oral hygiene, taking active steps to prevent gum disease from developing.
How to Prevent Gum Disease
The best way to prevent gum disease is by developing and practicing good oral hygiene habits. This means, in addition to visiting the dentist for a professional cleaning and checkup every six months, you should also floss and brush your teeth for at least two minutes twice a day at home.
It’s also important to ask our team about proper brushing and flossing techniques for cleaning between your teeth and gums to ensure your efforts are really making a difference.
If you are at an increased risk for developing gum disease, we recommend also rinsing regularly with an alcohol-free antibacterial mouthwash.
What to Do If You Think You Have Gum Disease
If you have noticed signs and symptoms of gum disease or other changes inside your mouth that you believe might indicate that you have gum disease, we strongly encourage you to schedule a dental examination as soon as possible.
Dr. Brown or Dr. Murchie will talk with you about your symptoms and examine your teeth and gums for signs of gum disease to provide you with an accurate diagnosis.
Gum Disease Treatment at Goochland Dentistry
Treatments for gum disease vary depending on the severity of the infection. More mild cases can usually be managed with more frequent dental cleanings and improved oral hygiene habits at home.
Moderate or severe cases of periodontal disease tend to require periodontal disease treatments like scaling and root planing or prescription antibiotics. In the most severe cases, surgery might be necessary to remove diseased tissues and restore compromised dental structures.
Our dentists always recommend the least invasive treatment that will still be effective before recommending more serious treatment interventions. If you are diagnosed with periodontal disease, we can talk with you about the severity of your infection and provide you with a variety of treatment options to restore your oral and general health.
To learn more about periodontal disease or to schedule a dental examination, we welcome you to contact us today.
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