If your dentist has diagnosed you with gum disease, you’re not alone. Millions of people nationwide suffer from gum disease, with symptoms ranging from minor gum inflammation to irreparable damage to the bone and tissue that supports the teeth, resulting in tooth loss. Gum disease starts with plaque buildup on teeth, resulting from naturally-occurring bacteria and mucus in the mouth. If the plaque isn’t removed, it becomes tartar, which can eventually lead to serious dental problems.
Before we discuss whether gum disease can be cured, let’s summarize gum disease’s most common causes and symptoms:
Causes of Gum Disease
- Smoking: along with its many other destructive qualities, smoking is a leading contributor to gum disease.
- Diabetes: diabetics are at greater risk of getting infections that lead to gum disease.
- Genetics: some people are more genetically predisposed to gum disease.
- Hormonal changes in females: during hormonal changes, a female’s gums can be more sensitive and thus more susceptible to gum disease.
- Tender or bleeding gums
- Sensitive teeth
- Painful chewing
- Persistent bad breath
- Loose teeth
- Red or swollen gums
Can Gum Disease be Cured?
There are two main types of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is the precursor to periodontitis. Let’s look closer at both.
Untreated plaque and tartar, along with the harmful bacteria that constitute both, will eventually lead to inflammation of the gums (gingivitis). Warning signs of gingivitis include swollen, red gums that bleed easily. With daily brushing and flossing, along with regular cleaning by a dentist and/or dental hygienist at Specialty Dental Care in Omaha, gingivitis can be cured. If treated promptly, gingivitis will not result in any vital bone or tissue loss around the teeth.
Untreated gingivitis can develop into periodontitis (literally, “inflammation around the tooth”). The inflammation causes separation between the teeth and gums, forming spaces called “pockets” that can easily become infected. What ensues is a process in which the human body actually works against itself: As the body’s immune system attacks the bacteria, plaque/tartar continue to spread below the gum line. The body responds to the spreading infection by releasing bacterial toxins. These toxins, whose aim is to defeat the infection by any means necessary, end up eroding the connective tissue and bone that keep the teeth in place.
In a worst-case scenario, periodontitis that goes unaddressed for too long will result in the destruction of the aforementioned tissue and bone, along with the gums, and the resulting loose teeth will require removal. Periodontitis cannot be cured. Instead, our dental professionals in Omaha will focus on controlling the infection. This includes in-office treatments as well as a dedicated regimen of twice-daily brushing and flossing for the patient. If the patient is a smoker, we’ll highly recommend the patient try to quit, as quitting contributes to more effective treatment and control of periodontitis.
Steps we take to control the infection include a deep cleaning during which a) tartar is scraped off across the gum line, a process called “scaling”, and b) the affected tooth roots are softened and removed of harmful bacteria, a step known as “root planning”. Medication may also be prescribed, and surgery might be needed in extreme cases.
For more information on gum disease and to make an appointment for a cleaning, contact Specialty Dental Care today.