Gum disease, often referred to as Gingivitis, Periodontitis or Periodontal Disease, is the inflammation and destruction of the soft tissues surrounding the teeth. It is caused by the growth of bacteria in the plaque that sticks to and grows on the teeth and gums. There are many things that can contribute to gum disease but also many preventative measures one can take to avoid and fight it. We will be touching on some key tips and tricks to avoid gum disease as well as other information to keep you and your family’s oral hygiene in top shape.
Is there a difference between Gingivitis and Periodontitis?
Gingivitis, by definition, is the inflammation of the gingival tissues (the “gums”). It is generally more common than Periodontitis and is the precursor stage before Periodontitis, which is more severe and means that the bone underneath the gums has started to deteriorate. Being more severe, Periodontitis is more properly referred to as gum disease.
When the presence of gum disease causing bacteria is prolonged and/or intensifies, the body’s immune system attempts to fight it, which causes inflammation. Inflammation is the bodies army against the bacteria but unfortunately, it also attacks the bone, which begins to also be “eaten away”. This results in the creation of pockets, or spaces between the roots of the teeth and the gums. This separation can allow more bacteria to be lodged there and continue the cycle of inflammation and bone destruction. In addition to bleeding gums, bad breath and pain, the long term consequence of untreated gum disease is tooth loss.
Contributors to Gum Disease
While some people can be more prone to gum disease than others, there are a few common things that can make it worse:
- Smoking: Both the smoke itself, as well as the nicotine and other chemicals, worsen the effects of gum disease and the ability of the body to naturally resist its progression. This goes for cigarettes, cigars, pipes and marijuana.
- Prescription Medication: Certain medications can decrease the amount of saliva the mouth produces. Saliva is key in protecting the gums since it helps to flush out bacteria and adds a protective coating of enzymes and proteins. Other medications can cause abnormal gum tissue growth and make it easier to trap bacteria in pockets.
- Changes in Hormones: Hormonal changes during puberty, pregnancy, and/or menopause can lead to gingivitis, or to the aggravation of existing gum disease.
- Poor Oral Hygiene: This is by far the leading cause of gum disease. Given the direct relationship between the bacteria found in plaque and the inflammation it causes, the failure to keep the teeth and gums free of this plaque and bacteria is most responsible for gum disease!
Symptoms of Gum Disease
The hallmark sign of gum disease is bleeding gums. If there is blood present when brushing, flossing or eating, it generally means that there is at least gingivitis. Consistent bad breath and foul taste can also be a sign of gingivitis or gum disease. Red, swollen and tender gums, and recession of the gum line are generally symptoms of worsening gum disease. No matter which of these symptoms are present, if you have any, it is time to see us and have it checked out!
How to Avoid Gum Disease
The best “treatment” for gum disease is prevention. Proper control of plaque by regular and proper flossing, brushing and mouth wash is the ideal way to avoid gum disease. Thorough flossing by gently going in between teeth in a “C” formation will remove hidden plaque. Brushing upwards and out afterwards will get rid of just about all of the remaining plaque and bacteria. Finally, using an antibacterial mouthwash as the last step in one’s daily routine will ensure gum disease is kept at bay.
In addition to following all of these steps, it is also essential to visit a dentist at least twice a year. We will make sure to pick up where you left off and catch anything you may have missed, (as well as blast off any of that plaque that has hardened into calcified tartar). At Go Dental, we are ready to help you and your entire family ensure your teeth, gums and whole mouth are consistently healthy. We are conveniently located in downtown Hamilton, in the heart of Corktown, near the Hamilton GO Station. Go Dental offers extensive dental services including Invisalign Clear Braces, Hygiene & Scaling, Root Canals, Prosthodontics, Oral Surgery, Teeth Whitening, and more.