Gingivitis to Periodontitis
A significant indicator of gum disease is inflammation, which is the body's way of shielding, guarding, and protecting itself from infection. Think of it as a blowfish puffing up to scare away predators! And while you may want to avoid dealing with inflamed gums, being able to recognize and act upon the signs and symptoms of gum disease is essential. Gum disease is a sneaky, progressive disease.
Here's why: the first stage, called gingivitis, occurs when bacterial plaque is not thoroughly removed from your teeth. When you don't treat gingivitis, periodontitis may come into play. Toxins from this buildup of bacterial plaque affect your gum tissue and the bone and ligaments that support your teeth. As the infection causes periodontitis to spread to the bone and supporting tissues, your teeth may become loose and need removal. But even advanced cases of periodontal disease don't have to progress to this point.
Early Prevention and Reversal of Gingivitis
You're probably wondering, "is periodontal disease reversible?" While advanced gum disease may need more complex interventions, you have the power to reverse your gingivitis. It's reversible with daily brushing and flossing and regular professional dental care, as confirmed by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). Since your at-home oral care routine is pivotal to fighting gum disease, you should use the products that best suit you. For example, not everyone is a fan of flossing (also known as interdental cleaning). The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research notes you can use water flossers for cleaning between your teeth. There are also mouthwashes meant to treat gingivitis, so swish around with one after you brush. Your dental professional may recommend a prescription-strength antimicrobial mouthwash to help reduce bacteria in hard-to-reach areas. Lastly, consider your diet. Avoid sugary foods and drinks as they contribute to tooth decay. Instead, build a well-balanced diet. It should consist of plenty of hydration, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, meats, and dairy to make a robust immune system ready to fight disease!
Common Gingivitis Risks
Gum disease is your body's response to harmful bacteria that cling to your teeth in the form of plaque. Although bacteria are the main culprit, other factors can enhance the severity of the condition. These factors include smoking, hormonal changes in girls or women, medications that cause dry mouth, and diabetes, compromising your ability to fight infection. As noted by the National Institute of Dental Craniofacial Research, family genetics can make some people more prone to severe gum disease.
Early Signs of Gingivitis
While we noted swollen, bleeding gums as the first sign of gingivitis, there are a few additional signs. Recognizing and treating early signs of gingivitis allows you to stop this disease's progression before it affects the bone surrounding your teeth. Here are the reversible signs and symptoms of gingivitis that you'll want to look for:
- Red or swollen gums (healthy gums are pink and firm)
- Bleeding gums when you brush your teeth or floss
- Bad breath
- Heavy tartar buildup
- Sensitive teeth
Types of Gum Disease
There are different forms of periodontal disease, but the following are the most common:
- Chronic gingivitis. A reversible, milder form of periodontal disease, marked by inflammation, redness, and bleeding gums. There is no bone loss with gingivitis, and as noted, it is easily preventable!
- Aggressive periodontitis. A rapid loss of gum attachment and bone destruction in a short period.
- Chronic periodontitis. The most common form of periodontitis. It progresses slowly.
- Necrotizing periodontal disease. An infection resulting from the death of gum tissue surrounding the tooth and connecting bone. Its common symptoms are a foul odor and painful bleeding gums.
Professional Treatment Options for Advanced Periodontal Disease
Your first step in periodontal disease treatment is a conservative, non-surgical approach called scaling and root planing (SRP). A dentist or dental hygienist provides this treatment by scraping and removing the plaque and tartar from your teeth and root surfaces with instruments designed for this purpose. Then they smooth away any roughness on the roots to prevent bacteria from easily gathering again. This procedure can sometimes take more than one visit. The administration of a local anesthetic can help to avoid any discomfort. After this process, your gums will heal and reattach themselves to your teeth's healthy, clean surfaces. Within a few weeks, your dentist will test your healing and decide if further treatment is necessary.
Pocket Reduction Procedure
If you have more severe periodontitis, you probably have questions about getting your teeth clean again and how to fix loose teeth from gum disease. If the gum tissue is not fitting snugly around the tooth after scaling and planing, you may not be able to keep the deep pocket area of your gums clean. This means you're a candidate for periodontal pocket reduction or flap surgery. By folding back the gum tissue, your dental professional can remove infectious bacteria and smooth areas of damaged bone. Your gum tissue will then reattach to healthy bone.
If you have exposed roots due to gum recession, brought on by gum disease, gum grafts can cover them. Your dental professional takes gum tissue from your palate or another source and uses it to cover the roots of one or more teeth. Covering exposed roots helps reduce sensitivity and protects your roots from decay while stopping further gum recession and bone loss.
Lasers have revolutionized multiple industries, and oral care is no exception. Although laser periodontal therapy is still in its infancy, it shows promising results for eligible patients. There are a few apparent benefits of this novel therapy. They include the laser's ability to target the disease precisely, in a less invasive nature, and shorter recovery time. There is insufficient evidence demonstrating that laser therapy is better than other gum disease therapy forms. It would help if you spoke with your dentist about all available therapy options. It's always best to err on the side of caution with dental decisions.
Clearing a Periodontal Abscess
A periodontal abscess can sometimes occur from advanced gum disease. This abscess appears as a red, swollen lesion on the gumline. If you suddenly feel a sharp pain in your gums, it's best to see a dentist quickly, as the sooner an abscess gets treatment, the better! Gum infection treatment in this situation usually involves draining the abscess and deep cleaning the area. Antibiotics can also help make sure the infection is clear.
Some gum infections can develop when a tooth (usually a wisdom tooth) tries to erupt but becomes stuck or impacted. A small flap forms over the trapped tooth. If food becomes lodged in this gum flap, bacteria can soon follow, leading to pericoronitis infection. Your dentist will usually instruct you to rinse out your gums with salt water to remove any trapped food or debris. They may then prescribe a round of antibiotics if bacteria lingers.
Bone grafting is a surgical procedure that promotes bone growth in an area where gum disease impacted bone. During this type of treatment, your dentist will clean out the bacteria and then place either natural or synthetic bone in the area where there is bone loss. They will include tissue-stimulating proteins in this procedure to help your body effectively regrow bone and tissue.
Why Acting Fast on Gum Disease Treatment Is Important
If you've made it through reading all of these treatments, we're impressed! It's no doubt a lot of information to take in at once, especially on top of a gum disease diagnosis. But we believe that knowledge is power, and being able to ask your dentist about the full array of gum disease therapies will help you in the long run.
The sooner you seek treatment, the better your chances are of saving your teeth and health. While insurance often covers gum disease therapy, many options are available for people without dental insurance. It will just take a little research! For example, dental and dental hygienist schools have clinics to gain practical experience performing various procedures. These take place under the supervision of an experienced licensed dentist at a reduced rate. Also, federally funded health centers offer affordable dental services based on your income.
Besides implementing healthy lifestyle habits like cutting down on sugar and activating a thorough daily oral hygiene routine, your dentist will recommend keeping a close eye on your periodontal health with more frequent checkups and oral care appointments. When dealing with periodontal disease, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.