Gum disease, basically an infection of the gums around your teeth, is caused by excessive plaque buildup. The plaque will only increase if not removed by brushing, flossing, and dental checkups, and if it isn’t removed, it will release toxins that will damage your gums. Over time, this forms small pockets in your gums, separating them from your teeth. Gum disease is among the top causes of tooth loss for adults. It is almost entirely painless, so many people don’t even realize they have a problem until it’s spotted during a regular checkup.
Gum disease has two phases. The first is gingivitis, which makes the gums red and swollen, causing them to bleed easily. Gingivitis is treatable, and even just brushing and flossing daily can get rid of it. The second phase, periodontitis, is much more serious. During periodontitis, the gums and bone supporting the teeth are irreversibly damaged. This can cause teeth to fall out or become loose.
Factors that result in a higher risk of gum disease include:
- Chewing tobacco
- Crooked teeth
- Ill-fitting bridges
- Medications like steroids, cancer therapy drugs, oral contraceptives, calcium channel blockers, and anti-epilepsy drugs
- Old fillings
Possible symptoms of gum disease:
- A change in the fit of partial dentures
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when biting
- Constant bad breath
- Constant bad taste in the mouth
- Easily bleeding gums
- Gums that have pulled back from your teeth
- Permanent teeth becoming loose
- Pus between the teeth and gums
- Red, swollen gums; often, your gums will be tender as well
Gum disease can be treated in multiple ways depending on the specific case and its severity. Some treatments are non-surgical, such as periodontal trays and deep cleaning. Other options, such as laser gum surgery and periodontal surgery, are helpful in more severe cases. When gum disease has resulted in tooth loss, dental implants may be an option for replacement.