The Centers for Disease Control reports that nearly half of Americans over the age of 30 have gum disease. But, not all gum disease is categorized the same way. It’s essential to recognize the symptoms early so that you know what you’re dealing with and can get it treated properly. Let’s take a closer look at the different types of gum disease, including its symptoms and how you can avoid it.
What is Gum Disease?
Periodontal gum disease is an infection of the tissues (gums and bone) that hold your teeth in place. It can affect the bone that surrounds and supports your teeth. This happens when plaque that forms on your teeth accumulates and hardens. The bacteria found in plaque build-up causes damage to the gum tissue.
Gum disease is usually divided into two different types depending on the severity:
Gingivitis is the least severe form of periodontal gum disease and is also referred to as gum inflammation. When gingivitis is present, the gums are swollen and bleed easily. Despite this, there is usually no pain. Patients can fight gingivitis by brushing twice a day and flossing daily and seeing a periodontist to make sure it is not developing into a more severe form of gum disease. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis.
Periodontitis occurs when plaque spreads and grows beneath the gum line. The bacteria in plaque produce toxins and irritate the gums. These toxins trigger a chronic inflammatory response, which causes the body to turn on itself leading to the tissues and bone that support the teeth to be broken down. In periodontitis, the gums separate from the teeth, leaving pockets between the teeth and gums. These pockets become infected, destroying more gum tissue and bone. This can lead to teeth become loose and some even having to be removed.
There are several forms of periodontitis:
Aggressive periodontitis involves rapid bone destruction in otherwise healthy patients.
Chronic periodontitis leads to inflammation in the tissues that support the teeth as well as bone loss. This is the most common form of periodontitis.
Periodontitis as a manifestation of systemic diseases starts at a young age. Systemic diseases associated with periodontitis include diabetes, heart disease, and respiratory disease.
Necrotizing periodontal disease is the necrosis of gum tissues, periodontal ligament, and bone. This is most commonly seen in people with immunosuppression, malnutrition, and HIV.
Signs & Symptoms of Gum Disease
Many people may not even realize that they’re developing gingivitis because the symptoms are not especially painful. Symptoms may include swollen or receding gums and gums that bleed with regular flossing or brushing.
You may also notice your gums change to a reddish color from their normal pinkish tone. Bad breath is also another common sign of gum disease, as well as loose teeth or pus around the teeth and gums.
How is Gum Disease Diagnosed?
If you notice any signs of inflammation or unusual bleeding around your gums, it’s a good idea to contact your periodontist. Your periodontist will use a dental probe to check for pocket depth. This measurement procedure is generally painless. Healthy pocket depth is usually between 1 and 3 millimeters (mm). Pockets with a depth of 4 mm or more may indicate periodontitis.
It’s also important to note that any pockets deeper than six millimeters typically cannot be cleaned well. A periodontist will thoroughly clean the pockets around the teeth to prevent damage to the surrounding bone. When any deep pocket depth is recognized, x-rays will usually be taken to determine whether there’s been any bone loss.
How Can I Avoid Gum Disease?
You can avoid gum disease by brushing your teeth after meals to remove any plaque that gets stuck between your teeth and gums. Flossing or using other specialized brushes between your teeth, at least once a day can also remove any food particles that get stuck. It’s also a good idea to rinse with mouthwash to help reduce plaque. Scheduling regular check-ups with your general dentist is important to good oral health and to avoid periodontal gum disease. If you need to see a periodontist, you will continue to see him/her for regularly scheduled periodontal cleanings and checkups.
If you’re a smoker, quitting can help to prevent gum disease. People who have diabetes or who have a history of gum disease are also more prone to getting gum disease.
Visiting a Gum Specialist Rochester NY
If you suspect you may be developing gum disease, it’s essential to visit a gum specialist Rochester NY, as soon as possible for treatment. Detecting gum disease early is the key to preventing bone loss around the tooth. A comprehensive periodontal evaluation will look at your teeth, plaque level, gums, and bone structure and make a plan for treatment.
Thomas Zahavi DMD, MS
Diplomate of The American Academy of Periodontology