Gum disease is an inflammation of the gums that can progress to affect the bone that surrounds and supports your teeth. It is caused by the bacteria in a plaque, a sticky colourless film that constantly forms on your teeth.
If not removed through daily brushing, plaque can build up and infect not only your gums and teeth but eventually the gum tissue and bone that support the teeth. There are three stages of gum disease and these are:
Gingivitis: This is the earliest stage of gum disease. It is an inflammation of the gums caused by plaque buildup at the gum line. If daily brushing does not remove the plaque, it produces toxins that can irritate the gum tissue causing gingivitis. You may notice some bleeding during brushing. Gum disease damage can be reversed since most of the tissues that hold the teeth in place are not yet affected.
Periodontitis: At this stage, the supporting bone and fibres that hold your teeth in place are irreversibly damaged. Your gums may begin to form a pocket below the gum line which traps food and plaque. Proper dental care usually prevents further damage.
Advanced Periodontitis: In this final stage of gum disease, the fibres and bone supporting teeth are destroyed which can cause your teeth to shift or loosen. This can affect your bite and if aggressive treatment cannot save them, your teeth may need to be removed.
Signs you have gum disease
•Gums that are red, puffy, swollen, or tender
•Gums that bleed during brushing
•Teeth that look longer because your gums have receded.
•Gums that have separated or pulled away from your teeth, creating a pocket
•Changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite.
•Pus coming from between your teeth and gums
•Bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth.
Professional cleaning by a dentist is the only way to remove plaque that has built up and hardened into tartar. The dentist will clean your teeth to remove the tartar. If your condition is more severe, a root planning procedure may be performed. Root planning helps to smooth irregularities on the roots of the teeth making it more difficult for plaque to deposit there.
By scheduling regular checkups, early stage gum disease can be treated before it gets to a much more serious condition. If your condition is more advanced, treatment in the dentist’s office will be required.
The writer is a dentist