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Gum disease is still the most common cause of tooth loss in adults, outstripping even cavities and decay. Most people will suffer from it to some degree during their lives, but it's a condition that can be treated very effectively, and with proper oral care serious problems can largely be avoided.
What Exactly Is Gum Disease?
There are two main types of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontal disease. With gingivitis, the gums become swollen and sore, often turning red and inflamed, and will tend to bleed during brushing or when eating harder foods. If gingivitis is left untreated, it can progress into periodontal disease, where the inflammation spreads to the teeth roots and even the jawbone, making your teeth feel loose to the touch and even eventually fall out completely.
What Causes It?
Gum disease is ultimately caused by insufficient attention to oral hygiene, that is, not brushing and flossing thoroughly enough. Just as with dental decay, gum problems are the result of a build up of plaque in the mouth. Plaque is a thin layer of bacteria that grows on your teeth after eating, and while most of the bacteria plaque contains are harmless, some types cause irritation to the gums and lead to disease. Good brushing and flossing habits will largely remove this bacteria and stop gum disease from taking hold, or from progressing too far if you already have it.
Smokers should note that they are more likely to get gum disease than non-smokers, as tobacco causes a lack of oxygen in the blood to the gums, making them less able to fight off the bacteria and resulting inflammation.
Spotting and Treating Gum Disease
While sore, inflamed and bleeding gums are a sure sign of problems which need treatment, underlying periodontal disease is unfortunately largely painless and free of symptoms until it has become firmly established and is already causing damage. In severe cases, you may get tooth abscesses and/or signs of infection such as pus oozing around the base of the tooth. If you spot this, you need to see a dentist quickly.
More commonly, bleeding teeth and unpleasant smelling breath are the first signs of gum disease. These symptoms will also need to be checked out by your dental team to make sure that the problem hasn't already gone beyond simple gingivitis and developed into periodontal disease, but if caught in time then treatment can be very effective. Your dentist will give your teeth a complete clean to remove all traces of the plaque and bacteria which is causing the problem, and will advise on improving your dental care at home to stop further flare-ups and help your gums overcome the inflammation.
If periodontal disease is detected, a more thorough treatment may be necessary with a procedure known as 'root planing'. This clears any bacteria that has invaded your teeth roots, and will usually require a local anesthetic and cause a little discomfort for a day or two after treatment.
In The Long Term
A proper regime of brushing and flossing to remove all traces of plaque will stop gum disease in its tracks, and over time any damage can even start to be reversed as your gums begin to recover. However, especially in severe cases of periodontal disease, it's a good idea to have your dentist regularly check that your gums are in good health and that there's no sign of the disease returning.
Call Now: 587 410 5766
Dr. Alexander Yeh and Dr. Iyad Al-Qishawi are registered general dentists. They graduated in the same class at the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Dentistry.
Edmonton Emergency Dental Services:
Pain and infection relief
Phone: 587 410 5766
Address: 4526 Calgary Trail NW #110 Southbound NW, Edmonton, AB T6H 5W6