Gum disease or periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues that support the teeth. Gum disease attacks just below the gum line in the sulcus, where it causes the attachment of the tooth and its supporting tissues to break down. As the tissues are damaged, the sulcus develops into a pocket; generally the more severe the disease, the greater the depth of the pocket.
Gum diseases are classified according to the severity of the disease. The two major stages are gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is a milder and reversible form of periodontal disease that only affects the gums. It may lead to more serious, destructive forms of periodontal disease called periodontitis. This disease may have no symptoms but they cause damage to the bone and the tooth. Periodontal disease may affect one tooth or more and starts when there is an accumulation of plague. Over time the plague builds up especially when teeth are not flossed and brushed regularly. The initial symptoms include soft gums that tend to bleed easily during brushing, slight inflammation and grayish outline of the teeth where it joins the gum line.
The first stage of the gum disease is called gingivitis. It is mild and doesn’t cause any discomfort. It is caused by poor oral health and it is reversible and can be remedied with professional treatment and oral care. Periodontitis is the next stage of gingivitis. As the plague spreads and grows just below the gum line, the bacterial infestations release chemicals that cause irritation in the gums hence inflammation. Spaces appear between the gums and the teeth become infected. As this disease progresses, the gaps increase and more of the tissue and bone are destroyed. As the infection progresses, the teeth become loose and fall on their own or are extracted.
Periodontitis has different forms which include the following:
- Aggressive periodontitis- this happens in healthy individuals but the important aspects to consider include rapid attachment loss, bone destruction and receding gums.
- Systematic disease- it often starts at a young age and it is caused by other health conditions such as diabetes, respiratory diseases and heart disease.
- Chronic periodontitis- it results in swelling in the teeth tissues, progressive loss of attachments of the gum and results in bone loss. It is marked by recession of the gums and pocket formations.
- Necrotizing periodontal disease- It is characterised by necrosis of the periodontal ligament, gingivitis and alveolar bone. People with malnutrition, HIV, and immunosuppression have lesions that are commonly observed.
Treatment of Gum Disease
If you suffer from bleeding gums or suspect that you have gum disease it is important to let your dentist know. The treatment of gum disease usually involves a thorough explanation of oral hygiene techniques by the dentist or hygienist. Brushing 2-3 times per day is recommended after meals.
Any hard deposits of plaque that are present may need to be removed by a dentist or a hygienist. Ultrasonic or hand held scalers are recommended to remove the plaque deposits. By removing the deposits the teeth will become clean and plaque free