Gum disease is one of the great national health crises of our time that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. One reason for this is the symptoms of gum disease are simultaneously difficult to spot and easy to ignore. 1st in Smiles is proud to help our patients, and our friends and neighbors in Plano, TX, better understand gum disease, how it works, and how it can be stopped.
Today’s post is the second of a three part exposé on gum disease. We’ll be taking a close look at the two stages of gum disease, their symptoms, and how each can be treated. If any of this sounds a little too familiar, it’s probably not a coincidence: you probably are seeing the signs and symptoms of gum disease. If so, you should call your dentist immediately so that it is treated and the progress of the disease is reversed.
A Bad Play in Two Acts
Gum disease is like a two act play with a terrible ending: everyone loses their teeth! Gum disease comes in two distinct stages: gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is the first stage, and periodontitis is the second stage. As we discussed in our previous post, gum disease is the chronic inflammation of the gums (and other oral tissues) and bones that keep your teeth in your head. Gum disease causes tooth loss because the inflammation response (part of your body’s immune system) destroys those critical tissues and bone in an attempt to eliminate an infection that it can’t completely stop.
Gingivitis is sneaky. It’s symptoms can be tough to see if you don’t know what you’re looking for, and if you don’t, you might not even realize there’s a problem until it’s too late.
The best time to look for symptoms is when you’re performing your oral hygiene routine (remember: brush, floss, and rinse with mouthwash twice daily). People often miss the symptoms they can see because the changes in the appearance of your gums might be very subtle. Making matters worse, gingivitis rarely causes you discomfort or irritation. Your gums and teeth are being destroyed, and you won’t have pain to let you know it’s happening!
Look at your gums. Do they look more red lately? Could they be swollen? If you think you’re seeing your gums in a deeper shade of pink or red, you could have gingivitis. You might also find that your gums are a little tender. However, the smoking gun for gingivitis can be found on your toothbrush: do you notice some pink or red on your brush bristles, or on your used dental floss, or even in the sink when you rinse? That means your gums are bleeding, and bleeding gums are a clear sign that you have gingivitis.
Gingivitis is serious, but if you address it quickly by seeing your dentist for a deep cleaning, and commit to improving your oral health habits, gingivitis can be reversed.
Unfortunately, many people miss the symptoms of gingivitis, and the gum disease progresses to the next stage, which is much more serious: periodontitis.
Periodontitis: Now Things Are Serious
Gingivitis can be stopped and its progress can be reversed with a good cleaning from your dentist and by sticking to good habits (as well as making and keeping regular dental appointments).
If you fail to stop and reverse gingivitis, periodontitis will develop. Gingivitis is sneaky; periodontitis is anything but.
One of the first signs of periodontitis is the illusion that your teeth are getting longer. They aren’t getting longer, your gums are getting shorter. More accurately, your gums are pulling back from your teeth, where the plaque (bacteria) and dental calculus (AKA tartar) are causing them to become irritated (though you might not feel it yourself).
Your gums are literally trying to escape the bacteria, but as they pull back, things go from bad to worse. The spaces created by the pull-back of the gums are called (quite imaginatively) pockets. To bacteria, these pockets are prime real estate. They love to get into these pockets. The bacteria do two things well: eat and breed. The bacteria in your mouth live off the sugars that are found in your oral cavity, either from food, or just the sugar that is present in your saliva. As they eat, they excrete acids that cause tooth decay and destroy the tissue and bone. This is on top of the inflammation response which is trying its hardest to get rid of an infection that it just can’t get rid of on its own.
All this causes the pockets to get deeper and deeper, and the infection and the destructive inflammation finds its way to those crucial tissues and bones that keep your teeth in your mouth.
Periodontitis has observable symptoms like gingivitis, plus the creation of pockets and the illusory “lengthening” of the teeth caused by gum recession. Other signs include halitosis (chronic bad breath) and in the latest stages, loose teeth.
Periodontitis is not only destructive to your teeth, gums, and jawbone; because periodontitis is essentially inflammation run amok, the inflammation has also been linked to several diseases, including heart disease, respiratory disease, diabetes, and others (we’ll get more into that in the next post).
If you have gum disease, your dentist will recommend the following procedures to treat it:
Scaling and Root Planing:
Using specialized tools, your dentist will remove the plaque and dental calculus from your teeth.
Your dentist will prescribe you with a powerful antibiotic called Atridox to eliminate the bacteria. This will be paired with a rigorous new oral hygiene program from your dentist to prevent the disease from developing again.
Could You Have Gingivitis, or even Periodontitis?
You won’t know for sure until you make an appointment with your dentist. Call 1st in Smiles today at 972-905-9266 right now!