Gum disease is a common dental problem adults face. However, it can develop at any age. Healthy gums and bones hold your teeth into place firmly. Your gums attach to your teeth underneath the edge of your gums, and, gum disease impacts this attachment. While there are different causes of gum disease, the accumulation of plaque can start the development of gum disease.
What Are Plaque and Tartar?
Plaque and tartar can impact your oral health. Plaque is sticky and either clear or yellow and contains bacteria or germs. Each day, you have new plaque forming on your teeth where your teeth meet your gums. If you don’t remove this plaque by brushing and flossing your teeth each day, it hardens and turns into calculus, also known as tartar.
Tartar, a hard calcified deposit forming on the teeth and contributing to their decay, can cause an infection where your gums attach to your teeth, or its “point of attachment.”
What Is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is referred to as gingivitis in its early stages. In its later stages, it’s known as periodontal disease, and is a common reason for adult tooth loss, according to the Canadian Academy of Periodontology. Advanced periodontitis represents the final stage of gum disease.
Gum disease can develop slowly over time and doesn’t cause any pain, says the Alberta Dental Association & College. In some cases, you might not even notice any signs of gum disease until it’s serious enough where you risk losing your teeth. According to the Canadian Dental Association (CDA):
- You can usually prevent gum disease.
- You can treat it once it starts.
- You can reverse it when it’s in its early stages.
As the disease worsens, tiny infection pockets begin forming at the point of attachment. Although you may not see them, you may notice
- Traces of blood on your toothbrush.
- Puffy or swollen gums.
- A change in gum colour.
Eventually, the infection can begin to break down your gum tissue attached to your teeth. When this happens, it’s referred to as “attachment loss.” During this time, you may notice bleeding, swelling and gum colour change. With this attachment loss, gum disease leads to your bone that’s holding your teeth in place to begin breaking down too. When you don’t treat gum disease, your teeth can start getting loose and are at risk of falling out over time.
Anyone can develop gum disease, but your chances of developing it increase as you age. Your risk also increases when you have certain things that could make it more difficult to clean your teeth, such as having dentures, wearing braces or having abnormal tooth spacing.
To determine gum disease, dentists or hygienists use a tool known as a periodontal probe, where they measure the area where your gums and teeth attach. The dentist or hygienists inserts the probe into the pocket of the teeth to determine the depth of the pocket. The deeper the pocket the more severe the gum disease is. They will also be able to spot any bone loss around your teeth through the X-rays, which helps them decide if they can save the tooth or if they must remove it.
Symptoms of Gum Disease
Common signs of gum disease are that your gums might bleed or become red when you brush. The Government of Canada reports you can typically reverse gum disease with proper dental care at the early stages of gum disease. Gingivitis, when not treated, can get worse, and you may notice when you eat harder foods your gums will bleed.
Some common gum disease symptoms may include:
- Gums that bleed when you brush and floss.
- Gums that are puffy, tender, red or swollen.
- Gums that have pulled away or separated from your teeth, which creates a pocket.
- Longer looking teeth due to your gums receding.
- Changes in how your partial dentures fit.
- Changes in how your teeth fit together when biting down.
- Bad taste in your mouth or constant bad breath.
- Pus is coming from between your gums and teeth.
When gingivitis gets worse, you can develop an infection, or abscess, at the point of attachment. You can also experience the breakdown of bone, gum and other tissues. Your teeth could start to loosen and potentially fall out, or you may need a dentist to extract them.
To determine if you have gum disease, the dentist performs an oral exam to look for things like:
- Hard plaque buildup and tartar below and above your gums
- Bleeding gums
- Pockets between your gums and teeth
- Areas where your gums shrink or pull away from your teeth
The dentist will look for bone damage and other issues by taking X-rays of your teeth.
Other Signs of Gum Disease
The relationship between overall health and oral health is strong, according to the Alberta Dental Association & College, which reports evidence linking gum disease to stroke, respiratory disorders and heart disease.
The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) provides an overview of systemic health and periodontal disease. It reports research that shows there’s a link between periodontal disease and other diseases, including the following:
- Heart disease: Studies found periodontal disease links to heart disease. Although there’s no evidence of the cause-and-effect relationship as of yet, research has shown periodontal disease can raise your risk of heart disease. Many scientists believe periodontal disease-related inflammation could be the cause of this association. Periodontal disease may also worsen existing heart problems. Before dental procedures, individuals with a high risk for infective endocarditis might have to take antibiotics. Your cardiologist and periodontist can determine if you require antibiotics before a dental procedure because of your heart condition.
- Osteoporosis: Researchers suggest an association between jawbone loss and osteoporosis. Research suggests osteoporosis could cause tooth loss due to the decline in bone density supporting the teeth and taking away the solid foundation for your teeth.
- Diabetes: Individuals with diabetes have a higher risk of developing periodontal disease than those without diabetes, likely because diabetics are more prone to contracting infections. Periodontal disease is thought to be a diabetes complication, and those who aren’t managing their diabetes well are more at risk.
- Respiratory disease: Research shows you can aspirate bacteria that are grown in your oral cavity into your lungs, causing a respiratory disease like pneumonia, particularly in individuals with periodontal disease.
- Cancer: Studies found men with gum disease could be more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, blood cancers and kidney cancer.
For some time, many believed it was bacteria that caused the association between periodontal disease and other body diseases, but recent research shows inflammation could be the reason behind this association. Treating inflammation can not only help with periodontal disease management but also may help with managing other chronic inflammatory diseases such as those listed above.
How to Prevent Gum Disease
The CDA says the ultimate way you can deal with gum disease is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. To prevent gum disease and protect the health of your mouth, brush your teeth every day twice a day, floss every day at least once a day and schedule regular dental visits.
You can prevent gum disease with some preventative measures. And, while gum disease occurs more in adults, children can develop it as well. Therefore, good oral hygiene is important throughout your entire life.
Some preventative measures you can take include:
- Cut back on sugar. By consuming a lot of sugar, you may be providing bacteria with a breeding ground to grow. If you indulge in a sugary treat every once in a while, be sure you brush your teeth right afterwards or rinse your mouth with mouthwash or water.
- Eat fruits and vegetables. When you eat raw vegetables, they may help to clean your teeth. Fruits and vegetables containing B vitamins can support tissue repair.
- Quit smoking. You’re seven times more likely to get gum disease if you smoke.
- Brush well. Make sure you brush your teeth with a soft-bristled brush twice a day. Brush them for a couple of minutes to make sure you clean them thoroughly. Brush your tongue too because it also is a bacteria breeding ground.
- Floss daily. Using an up-and-down motion, floss in between all of your teeth.
Other ways to prevent gum disease include:
- See a dentist. Make an appointment with our Grande Prairie dental office every six months for a checkup and cleaning. If you have a high risk for gum disease, book that visit every three months instead.
- Take vitamin C. Getting daily vitamin C can help support your immune system which keeps your gums healthy by making them more bacteria-resistant. It also strengthens weak gum tissue.
- Get calcium. Calcium increases tooth and bone formation. The dietary reference intake (DRI) is 1,300 for preteens and teens between 9 years old and 18 years old, 1,000 mg for women and men between 19 and 50 years old and 1,200 for women and men over 50 years old.
- Take a multivitamin. Multivitamins contain both calcium and vitamin C.
Along with taking safeguard measures in preventing gum disease, check for warning signs and see a Grande Prairie periodontist or general dentist if you notice any of the following:
- Red gums around your teeth
- Gums that change colour
- Persistent bad breath
- Bleeding gums when you brush or floss
- Puffy, shiny or sore gums
- Metallic taste in your mouth
- Sensitive teeth for no reason
How to Treat Gum Disease
A dentist or periodontist can identify gum disease early and can treat it. Early gum disease treatment is essential. It may help control infection, prevent permanent gum damage and prevent tooth loss.
If you have serious gum disease, you may schedule an appointment with a periodontist who can look for periodontal disease symptoms, treat gum disease and help to possibly prevent additional tooth and bone loss. They may also be able to restore the gum and bone tissue you already lost.
The primary treatment goal is controlling the infection. The types and number of gum disease treatments will vary and will depend on how the gum disease has progressed. No matter what the treatment, you still need to practice good oral hygiene at home. Your dentist or periodontist might recommend you make certain behaviour changes as well, like quitting smoking, to help improve the results of your treatment.
Gum disease can be a progressive disease. When you leave it untreated, it can progress into periodontitis, or periodontal disease. At this stage, you have significant bacterial plaque buildup, even below the gum line. This buildup releases toxins that can impact your gum tissue, and can affect your ligaments and the bones that support your teeth. Infection can set in and cause the disease to weaken the supporting tissues and bone, eventually causing your teeth to become loose to the point where they need to be removed or treated surgically.
Some ways on how to treat periodontal disease include:
- Antibiotics: A dentist might prescribe antibiotics for gingivitis to help tackle the infection. Antibiotics can be swallowed as a capsule or pill, placed directly on your gums or swished as mouthwash around your teeth.
- Anti-infective medications: The dentist may prescribe an anti-infective medication for local application inside a periodontal pocket or oral use. One particular medication of this class is Atridox which you use for seven days and is a controlled-release doxycycline gel. When you apply it inside the periodontal pocket, the gel solidifies.
- Antibacterial toothpaste: A dentist might suggest you use antibacterial toothpaste daily to reduce gingivitis and plaque.
- Root planing and scaling: If you have periodontitis, the dentist or periodontist might use the root planing and scaling periodontal disease treatment to clean your teeth. With this method, it removes tartar and plaque buildup both below and above your gum line. This procedure may introduce damaging bacteria into your bloodstream. It may also put your gum tissue at risk for infection. You’ll need to take antibiotics before your surgery and after if you currently have a disorder that puts you at risk for an infection that’s especially harmful to you.
- Pocket reduction procedure: After the scaling and root planing, if your gum tissue isn’t fitting tightly around your tooth and you can’t clean the deep pocket area, you might be a periodontal pocket reduction candidate. The dentist or periodontist folds the gum tissue back to remove infectious bacteria and smooth damaged bone areas which allows gum tissue to begin reattaching to healthy bone. When the dentist reduces the pockets, it causes the tissue to rest lower on your tooth and can expose more of your tooth structure and some parts of your roots, which is a potential risk. This can lead to increased thermal (cold and hot) sensitivity.
- Gum Grafts: Gum recession causes exposed roots. The periodontist or dentist can cover these with gum grafts. To do this, the dentist takes gum tissue from your palate or other sources and uses it to cover one or more tooth roots, reducing sensitivity and protecting your roots from decay while putting a halt to further bone loss and gum recession. Potential risks of gum grafts may include severe swelling, loosening sutures, uneven healing and infections. The graft may move too because of serious swelling.
- Surgery: You might require surgery if you have serious damage to your teeth or gums or if the treatments above are not working to control the infection. Options for surgery include a flap procedure where a dentist repairs bone damage and cleans the roots of your teeth, gingivectomy where a dentist eliminates the pockets between your gums and teeth where you can get plaque buildup or extraction where the dentist removes very damaged or loose teeth. Following your surgery, you might require antibiotics or other medications to help prevent infection and promote healing. Typical oral surgery complications can range from swelling, infections and bruising to damage to surrounding teeth or prolonged bleeding.
Brush and floss every day to keep your mouth free of disease and prevent plaque buildup. Your dentist may also prescribe you an antibacterial mouthwash.
Contact Gateway Dentistry Group Today
Gateway Dentistry Group is an Alberta Dental Association and College and College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta accredited non-hospital surgical facility. To schedule an appointment for periodontal disease in Grande Prairie, give us a call at 1-780-539-3555 or complete our online form. We’re accepting new patients and are looking forward to becoming your dentist for the Grande Prairie area.