Gum disease is an infection of the tissues that support your teeth. It is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. Because gum disease is usually painless, you may not know you have it, especially in the early stages.
Gum disease is caused by plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that forms on the teeth. These bacteria create toxins that can damage the gums and bone supporting teeth.
At your first new patient appointment and at regular intervals during future dental cleaning appointments, Dr. Gifford or his dental hygienist will measure the depth of the shallow v-shaped crevice (called a sulcus) between your tooth and gums.
Categorized as mild, moderate or severe, gingivitis is the inflammation of gum tissue WITHOUT bone loss around the teeth.
The gums become red, swollen and bleed easily.
At this stage, the disease is still reversible and can usually be eliminated by good home care including daily brushing and flossing along with regular professional dental cleanings.
Also categorized as mild, moderate or severe, periodontitis is the inflammation of gum tissue WITH bone loss around the teeth.
At this stage, the disease is irreversible. Periodontal therapy is necessary to arrest or slow further loss of the jawbone to avoid tooth loss. Specific protocols based on the most current research will be discussed with the patient.
Healthy gums and bone anchor teeth firmly in place, infected gums can cause teeth to become loose, fall out, or have to be removed by a dentist.
Some factors increase the risk of developing periodontal disease:
- Tobacco smoking or chewing
- System-wide diseases such as diabetes
- Some types of medication such as steroids, some types of anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, some calcium channel blockers, and oral contraceptives
- Bridges that no longer fit properly
- Crooked teeth
- Fillings that have become defective
If you notice any of the following signs of gum disease, see the doctor immediately:
- Gums that bleed easily
- Red, swollen, tender gums
- Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
- Persistent bad breath or bad taste
- Pus between your teeth and gums
- Permanent teeth that are loose or separating
- Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- Any change in the fit of partial dentures
It is possible to have periodontal disease and have no warning signs.
That is one reason why regular dental checkups and periodontal examinations are very important. Treatment methods depend on the type of disease and how far the condition has progressed.
Good oral hygiene at home is essential to keep periodontal disease from becoming more serious or recurring. You don't have to lose teeth to periodontal disease. Brush regularly, clean between your teeth, eat a balanced diet, and schedule regular dental visits for a lifetime of healthy smiles.