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Patient Education - Gum Disease

Gum disease is an infection of the tissues that surround and support your teeth. It is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. Because gum disease is usually painless, you may not know you have it. Also referred to as periodontal disease, gum disease is caused by plaque, the sticky film of bacteria that is constantly forming on our teeth.

Here are some warning signs that can signal a problem:

  • gums that bleed easily
  • red, swollen, tender gums
  • gums that have pulled away from the teeth
  • persistent bad breath or bad taste
  • permanent teeth that are loose or separating
  • any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  • any change in the fit of partial dentures

Some factors increase the risk of developing gum disease. They are:

  • poor oral hygiene
  • smoking or chewing tobacco
  • genetics
  • crooked teeth that are hard to keep clean
  • pregnancy
  • diabetes
  • medications, including steroids, certain types of anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, some calcium channel blockers and oral contraceptives

See your dentist if you suspect you have gum disease because the sooner you treat it the better. The early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. If you have gingivitis, your gums may become red, swollen and bleed easily. At this stage, the disease is still reversible and can usually be eliminated by a professional cleaning at your dental office, followed by daily brushing and flossing.

Advanced gum disease is called periodontitis. Chronic periodontitis can lead to the loss of tissue and bone that support the teeth and it may become more severe over time. If it does, your teeth will feel loose and start moving around in your mouth. This is the most common form of periodontitis in adults but can occur at any age. It usually gets worse slowly, but there can be periods of rapid progression.

Aggressive periodontitis is a highly destructive form of periodontal disease that occurs in patients who are otherwise healthy. Common features include rapid loss of tissue and bone and may occur in some areas of the mouth, or in the entire mouth.

Research between systemic diseases and periodontal diseases is ongoing. While a link is not conclusive, some studies indicate that severe gum disease may be associated with several other health conditions such as diabetes or stroke.

It is possible to have gum disease and have no warning signs. That is one reason why regular dental checkups and periodontal examinations are very important. Treatment methods depend upon the type of disease and how far the condition has progressed. Good dental care at home is essential to help keep periodontal disease from becoming more serious or recurring.

Remember: You don't have to lose teeth to gum disease. Brush your teeth twice a day, clean between your teeth daily, eat a balanced diet, and schedule regular dental visits for a lifetime of healthy smiles.

Have you heard these statements?

Gum disease is an infection of the tissues that surround and support your teeth. It is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. Because gum disease is usually painless, you may not know you have it.

Below we address 6 myths about gum disease and how you can prevent it in your own mouth.

Gum disease is not that common

On the contrary, gum disease is extremely common, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which notes nearly half of adults over age 30 suffer from some form of gum disease. Gum disease, an infection of the tissues that surround and support your teeth, is caused by plaque, the sticky film of bacteria that is constantly forming on our teeth. Plaque that is not removed with thorough daily brushing and cleaning between teeth can eventually harden into calculus or tartar.

I don't have any cavities so I can't have gum disease

Being cavity-free doesn't ensure you are in the clear where gum disease is concerned. That's because gum disease is painless and many people have no idea they have it. Gums that bleed easily or are red, swollen or tender is a sign of gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease and the only stage that is reversible. When caught early gingivitis can usually be eliminated by a professional cleaning at the dental office, followed by daily brushing and flossing.

Having gum disease means I'm going to lose my teeth, right?

Not so! You don't have to lose any of your teeth to gum disease if you practice good oral hygiene. That means brushing your teeth twice a day, cleaning between your teeth daily, eating a healthy diet, and scheduling regular dental visits. Even if you are diagnosed with gum disease, your dentist can design a treatment plan to help you keep it under control.

Bleeding gums during pregnancy is normal

While it's true that some women develop a condition known as "pregnancy gingivitis," it's not true that everyone experiences this. You can help prevent this condition by taking extra care during your brushing and flossing routine. Your dentist may recommend more frequent cleanings to prevent this.

Everyone has bad breath sometimes. It doesn't mean they have gum disease

Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth can be an indicator of gum disease and other oral diseases so it is important that you uncover what's causing the problem. If constantly have bad breath, make an appointment to see your dentist. Regular checkups allow your dentist to detect any problems as your bad breath may be the sign of a medical disorder. If your dentist determines that your mouth is healthy, you may be referred to your primary care physician.

I have diabetes. Does that mean I will get gum disease?

Diabetes is a chronic disease which affects your body's ability to process sugar. The resulting high blood sugar can cause problems with your eyes, nerves, kidneys, heart and other parts of your body. Diabetes can also lower your resistance to infection and can slow the healing process. If you have diabetes, you are at greater risk of developing some oral health problems, including gum disease, so it's important that you are extra diligent with your oral health. Always brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes with fluoride toothpaste, floss daily, and see your dentist regularly.