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We spend a lot of time caring for the teeth in our mouths—we brush them every day, we use floss when something’s stuck between them, and we get them cleaned at the dentist. 

But what about our gums? These connective tissues are what hold our teeth in our mouth and protect them from bacteria. If they aren’t taken care of, you could develop periodontal disease. 

Did you know that 7 in 10 Canadians develop gum disease? While this statistic may be shocking, the good news is that when detected early, this condition is treatable. The keys to successfully ward off negative side effects are early intervention, excellent oral hygiene, and restorative dental treatments.

When gum disease advances to the periodontal state, it is no longer reversible. This is the point where bone loss begins to occur. We recommend seeing your dentist ASAP if you suspect you may be developing gum disease.

If you want to preserve your oral health, it’s important to schedule regular dental check-ups. Gum disease symptoms are not always obvious, which is why so many Canadians develop this condition.

Interested in learning more about how to prevent periodontal disease? We’re going to share a comprehensive overview of this condition, from causes to treatment options. Here’s what you need to know about taking care of your gums:

 

What Is Gum Disease? 

This condition begins when bacteria collect near the gum tissues in your mouth. Plaque on your teeth eventually hardens into tartar (or calculus), a sticky, hard mineral that attracts bacteria.

Gums that are inflamed will recede and pull away from the teeth. This leaves space (or pockets) where bacteria can accumulate. It results in the decay of gum tissue and the supporting bone structure. The deeper the pockets become, the more likely it is that you will lose the tooth.

Gum disease progresses through a series of stages. The more advanced it becomes, the more difficult it is to reverse the damage. These stages include: 

  • Gingivitis. Telltale signs of this condition are inflamed and bleeding gums, bad breath, and/or plaque buildup. At this point, gum disease is reversible. Make sure to schedule an appointment with your dentist ASAP to develop a treatment plan.

 

  • Moderate periodontitis. As the disease progresses, the symptoms associated with it will become significantly worse. You may begin to notice signs of gum recession and tooth sensitivity.

 

  • Advanced periodontitis. Patients at this stage of gum disease will notice painful side effects like infected gums, loose teeth, and even the loss of teeth. In this stage, the infection has spread beyond the gums and into the attached bones and tissues. Gum disease is not reversible at this point, but dentists can offer treatments that relieve symptoms.

 

What Can Cause Gum Disease?

Periodontal disease is usually caused by a buildup of plaque. When tartar accumulates on the teeth and near the gum line, it causes the body’s immune system to negatively  react. Eventually, the bacteria cause an infection.

In most cases, gum disease is the result of poor oral hygiene. Certain medications, genetics, and lifestyle choices can also increase someone’s risk of developing this condition.

 

Symptoms

If you’re concerned that you may have gum disease, pay attention to the following signs:

 

Changes in appearance

Have you ever heard the phrase “long in the tooth”? While it isn’t a very kind way to describe someone’s smile, it refers to how gums pull away from the teeth, making them appear longer. This typically happens with age or when the gum tissue is infected. 

As gum disease develops, you may notice more space between the teeth. This can change the way it feels when you chew food or how your teeth are aligned. Spaces between teeth give more room for plaque and bacteria to grow. To clean these spots, you can use floss or an interdental brush.

 

Bleeding

When you are brushing and flossing, you may notice that your gums bleed. This is a sign that they’re sensitive and irritated from bacteria. Infected gum tissue is easily inflamed; it may become tender, red, or swollen after consuming hard foods. 

 

Sensitivity

Your gums protect the vulnerable nerve tissues within the teeth. When you have receding gums, those areas become exposed and are sensitive to hot and cold drinks and food. 

 

Loose teeth

Gum tissue is what holds our teeth in place. Without those connective tissues, the teeth become loose and may wiggle in your mouth. Dental treatments are necessary to restore the strength of your gums.

 

Risk Factors

What makes someone more susceptible to developing gum disease? Here are a few risk factors to take note of:

 

Poor oral hygiene

Since the buildup of plaque is the main cause of gum disease, the condition is often caused by tooth neglect. If plaque is not removed from the teeth, it will begin to damage the nearby gum tissues. 

 

Lifestyle Choices

If you partake of any of the following, you will be at a higher risk of developing gum disease:

  • Alcohol
  • Smoking

These substances impair the body’s immune system and inhibit saliva production. With a diminished immunity response, your body will have a harder time fighting off infections. 

A dry mouth caused by a lack of saliva poses other problems. Since saliva protects the teeth, a lack of it allows more bacteria to accumulate in the mouth. You can increase saliva production by avoiding alcohol and smoking, and increasing your water intake.

If you continue to smoke and/or drink alcohol during your gum disease treatment, this will reduce the efficacy of the treatment. 

 

Hormone changes

Fluctuating hormones can affect your oral health, as well. Those who are dealing with changing hormones need to be especially diligent about their oral hygiene. This may apply to those who are:

  • Pregnant
  • Going through puberty
  • Experiencing menopause 

Why do hormones affect our oral health? They change the way our bodies react to plaque and how blood is delivered to gum tissues. If you are dealing with any of these conditions, it’s important to see your dentist frequently. They can monitor how your gums may be reacting. 

 

Nutritional deficiencies

You might be familiar with the disease known as scurvy, which many sailors used to develop after months at sea. It’s caused by a deficiency in vitamin C and results in deteriorating gum tissue (among other things). Our teeth and gums rely on a healthy mix of fresh fruits and vegetables to stay strong. A diet high in sugars and carbohydrates will expose your teeth to bacteria and increase your risk of gum disease.

 

Prevention (Home Remedies)

With these treatments, you can slow the progression of gum disease and keep your symptoms at bay:

 

Mouthwash

Despite our best efforts, it’s tough to clean all the crevices in our teeth. You can get to those hard-to-reach spaces by using an antibacterial mouthwash. For the best results, use mouthwash after brushing and flossing your teeth.

 

Use a soft toothbrush

Hard bristles are abrasive on the gums and may cause more recession. Instead, use light pressure when brushing, and select bristles that are soft to the touch. You don’t need to apply much pressure when you’re cleaning your teeth; try to be gentle, yet thorough. 

 

Treatment Options

When gum disease advances to later stages, what can your dentist do to repair the damage? Here are a few common procedures used to treat gum disease:

 

Gum grafting

When the gums pull away from the teeth, this leaves the roots exposed, which causes sensitivity and loose teeth. To restore the gums, a periodontist will take healthy tissue from another part of the mouth and graft it over the recessed area. As the site heals, the tissue will attach to the tooth and replace the lost gums. 

For this surgery, your dentist will refer you to a periodontist who specializes in gum disease treatments. 

 

Oral surgery

As the gums pull away from the teeth, this creates pockets that build up with plaque, calculus, and bacteria. Cleaning these crevices is difficult, so your dentist may recommend flap surgery. During this procedure, your dentist will lift the tissue so that they can perform a deeper cleaning of your teeth. The gum is reattached afterward so that the site can heal.

 

Antibiotics

The increased amount of bacteria in your mouth puts you at a higher risk of developing a gum infection. It may result in a periodontal abscess, where a pocket of pus forms within the gum tissues.

 

Regular dental cleanings

While most patients see the dentist once every 6 months, those with gum disease may need to schedule more frequent cleanings. Your dentist might recommend that you book a hygiene appointment every 4 months. Doing so will allow them to remove plaque sooner and prevent it from making your gum disease worse.

At each appointment, your dentist can measure the space between your teeth and your gums to monitor how your periodontal disease is reacting to treatment. 

 

Contact Us Today

If you’ve ever had a toothache, then you know how important it is to take care of your oral health. Neglecting it will cause pain, sensitivity, and the eventual loss of your teeth.

At Edmonton Emergency Dentists, we have extensive experience treating periodontal disease. With our dental services, you can maintain healthy gums and prevent gum disease. Contact us today to discuss potential treatment options.