Gum Disease: The Most Prevalent Oral Health Problem Among Adults
Sore, red, bleeding gums and bad breath are some of the first signs of gum disease. Sure, there could be other reasons for these symptoms, but for American adults, gum disease is not uncommon. In fact, a 2012 CDC survey shows that nearly half of American adults have some form of periodontal disease and the stakes only get higher as a person gets older.
Causes and Risk Factors
So, what causes gum disease? There’s more than one answer. The most common cause is poor oral hygiene. When a person fails to brush, floss, and eat properly, plaque is more likely to build up and begin to eat away at the gum tissue.
Many things can contribute to a person’s risk of developing periodontal disease. Here are five major periodontal disease risk factors:
1. Tobacco use: Smoking and chewing tobacco don’t just disrupt the balance of bacteria in the mouth, it also inhibits gum function, weakens the connective fibers in the mouth, and weakens the immune system.
2. Autoimmune disorders: Rheumatoid arthritis, HIV/AIDS, and Chron’s disease call all increase a person’s risk for gum disease.
3. Dry mouth: Some medications and health conditions can cause dry mouth. In turn, this may lead to gum disease by allowing bacteria to rapidly reproduce and cause damage.
4. Hormonal changes: Pregnancy, menopause, and other reasons for hormonal changes also increase the risk of periodontal disease.
5. Genetics: Sometimes, it’s just in your genes. If your parents had gum disease, you’ll most likely have it as well.
There’s much more to gum disease than many people realize. For example, there are four stages of the disease and several different treatment methods. Continue reading to learn about all of that and more!
The Stages of Gum Disease
The three main stages of periodontal disease include gingivitis, slight periodontal disease, moderate periodontal disease, and advanced periodontitis. Continue reading to learn about the symptoms of each one.
The first stage of gum disease is mostly known for causing the gums to bleed while brushing and glossing. Some toothpaste commercials refer to the bleeding as “a little pink in the sink,” but in reality, bleeding gums aren’t always present when gingivitis is.
People whose gums are irritated may not bleed, but they may be accompanied by other telling symptoms, such as constant bad breath.
Still, some people never recognize that they have gingivitis until it progresses into the next stage or until they visit the dentist. Regular dental cleanings are a vital part of catching gum disease in its earliest stages. Gingivitis is the only stage in which the disease is reversible.
Slight Periodontal Disease
If left untreated, gum disease turns into periodontitis. This occurs when the bad bacteria begin to invade the gums and form deep periodontal pockets. The bacteria eat away at the gums and teeth, but this is just the beginning of it.
Though this stage isn’t reversible, it is manageable when patients receive treatment and follow the dentist’s instructions.
In addition to bleeding gums and bad breath, periodontitis brings pain, sensitivity, and shifting teeth.
Moderate Periodontal Disease
Two major changes occur when slight periodontal disease progresses to moderate periodontal disease:
1) The periodontal pockets increase from between three and five millimeters to six and seven millimeters, giving way to more bone and tissue for the bacteria to attack.
2) The bacteria have greater access to the bloodstream and immune system.
The teeth are also much more susceptible to becoming loose and falling out.
In the final stage of gum disease, patients may experience more severe symptoms as well as:
· Pus oozing from the gums
· Painful chewing
· Severe halitosis
· Gaps between teeth
· Gum recession
· Tooth loss
Again, the best way to fight against and prevent gum disease is to visit the dentist on a regular basis. Most dentists recommend every six months, but your dentist will recommend a time frame based on your oral health and oral health goals.
Gum Disease Treatments
There are several effective treatments. Below, we’ll describe each treatment method in the order in which they are used based on the severity of the gum disease.
Better Oral Hygiene
The earliest stage of gum disease, gingivitis, can sometimes be reversed simply by improving oral hygiene. Because poor oral hygiene is the most common reason for gingivitis, the opposite is the best way to combat it.
An improved oral hygiene routine includes:
· Brushing at least twice a day with a dentist-recommended toothpaste and toothbrush
· Flossing daily and thoroughly
· Using an antiseptic mouthwash
· Visiting the dentist as soon as possible
Scaling and Root Planing
When improved oral hygiene isn’t enough, the next line of treatment is scaling and root planing. This is a conservative measure that removes plaque and tartar from above and below the gum line.
Scaling consists of scraping away the plaque and tartar and planing is when the rough spots on the tooth are smoothed over to help prevent bacterial growth.
This process reduces and eventually eliminates the periodontal pockets and patients are able to maintain their oral health through proper oral hygiene.
Laser Pocket Decontamination
In some cases, advanced periodontal disease can be treated with lasers instead of surgery. This treatment requires a precise dental laser with a focused beam that removes bacteria from deep periodontal pockets.
In addition to eliminating the bacteria, the laser also creates an environment that is conducive to the healing process.
When gum disease causes gum recession, most dentists will recommend gum graft surgery to cover up any exposed tooth roots. This surgical procedure is used in addition to the above-mentioned treatments to greatly reduce sensitivity and the chance of periodontal disease in the future.
The dentist will remove a small amount of tissue from another part of the mouth and graft it onto the appropriate areas around the tooth.
For patients whose jawbone has been weakened and reduced by gum disease, bone grafting may be necessary. This is especially important for patients who have lost teeth to periodontal disease. replacing that bone allows the dentist to replace those teeth, restore functionality, and improve the patient’s appearance.
Gum Disease Treatment and Prevention in Grove, OK
Whether you’re currently suffering from gum disease or you just want to prevent it, Dr. Karl Jobst can help. Our office is equipped with the latest and most advanced technology and prepared team members to provide every patient with excellent and effective dental care.
Don’t wait any longer to receive the dental care you need to keep your mouth and body as healthy as possible. Call our office today at (918) 787-5800 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Jobst.