Gum disease is a serious issue that can lead to tooth loss. This common, but preventable problem is usually the result of poor oral hygiene, but a variety of other factors can cause gum disease. It can cause swollen, tender gums and can even destroy the bone that supports teeth. Fortunately, dental professionals can detect and treat gum disease in its earliest stages, when it is easiest to treat.
Gum disease is a progressive disease, which means it can get worse over time. The early form of gum disease, known as gingivitis, is associated with inflammation of the gums. Symptoms of gingivitis include red, swollen gums that can bleed easily.
Cause of Gum Disease
Bacterial infection is the most common cause of gingivitis. When bacteria stay on the teeth long enough, they form plaque, which is a clear sticky film. The bacteria in the plaque irritate the gums to cause inflammation. While gums may be irritated, no irreversible bone or tissue damage has developed and the teeth sit firmly planted in their sockets.
Eventually the plaque can harden into tartar, also known as calculus, which can build up and spread below the gum line. The accumulating tartar can make it more difficult to clean teeth and remove plaque. Tartar is extremely difficult to remove – once plaque hardens into tartar, only a dental professional can remove it.
Untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis, which is a severe gum infection that damages the soft tissue. Specifically, the inner layer of the gum and bone pull away from the teeth to create pockets, which collect debris. These pockets are prone to infection; the body’s immune system kicks in to fight the bacteria as it spreads below the gum line. Enzymes produced by the body’s immune system can combine with toxins produced by the bacteria to break down the connective tissue and bone that holds teeth in place; this allows teeth to loosen and fall out.
Periodontal disease is very common. In fact, periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. Periodontitis is also a risk factor for lung and heart diseases.
Other causes of gum disease
While plaque is the primary cause of gum disease, other factors can play a role. Your chances of developing gum disease increases with every risk factor.
Hormones – changes in the female hormones estrogen and progesterone increase blood flow to the gums, which makes the gums more sensitive to irritation
Sickness – some illnesses, such as cancer or HIV, can interfere with the immune system in ways that make the gums vulnerable to infection
Medication – certain medications, such as blood pressure and oral contraceptives, can cause inflammation of the gums that can lead to gum disease
Smoking – tobacco smoking reduces the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream; this can prevent the gums from getting the oxygen they need to function and to heal from small infections
Bad hygiene habits – brushing teeth improperly or infrequently allows plaque to build up on teeth
The good news is that gum disease is preventable and, if caught in time, treatable. Good oral hygiene with twice daily brushing and once daily flossing, along with regular dental visits, can help you avoid gum disease and tooth loss.
Ready to see a gum disease dentist? Triangle Dentistry is a dental expert more than 50 years in Raleigh, NC, helping people just like you. We can lay out a treatment plan to help you prevent or treat gum disease before it causes you pain, bleeding gums, or tooth loss.
For more information about gum disease, visiting a gum disease dentist and determining if you have gum disease, schedule an appointment with Triangle Dentistry today.
Triangle Dentistry, located in Raleigh, NC, provides a state-of-the-art facility that offers exceptional general dental and specialty services guided by empathy of a patient’s needs and desires. Services range from dental crowns to veneers and whitening procedures. For further information, questions, or to schedule an appointment, contact the office at (919) 847-6000