Updated: Aug 25, 2022
With more than two-thirds of all adults showing some form of gum infection, gum disease is one of the most common infections affecting people around the world today.
Gum disease commonly refers to a wide spectrum of infections that affect the soft and hard tissue of the mouth. The South African Dental Association states that severe gum disease is found in 5-20% of middle-aged adults. Research shows it may heighten the risk of stroke, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and even cause pregnancy complications.
We can separate the disease into gingivitis or periodontitis. Gingivitis is seen as the early stages of gum infection where no long-term damage to the gums or deeper supporting structures has taken place. Gum disease is usually painless and silent until the advanced stages. Some of the first signs include:
· Bad breath that will not go away
· Red, swollen and tender gums
· Bad taste in your mouth
· Gums that bleed when you brush
· Gums that pull away from the teeth
· Loose or separating teeth
· Painful chewing
· Sensitive teeth
Gingivitis affects the vast majority of people in some form or another and is considered reversible. However, if gingivitis is allowed to continue, periodontal disease can develop. In periodontal disease, the destruction of the supporting tissues, including the gums, bone and periodontal ligaments (the fibres that hold the teeth in the jaw) can occur. Eventually, the destruction could cause the teeth to become loose and even be lost.
However, aggressive periodontitis only affects 10 - 15% of the population. This percentage indicates that there are certain risk factors for the progression of the disease. The first of these factors is the type of bacteria present in the mouth. We know that of the 300 species of bacteria in the mouth, only a few are capable of causing advanced disease.
Secondly, there are a several risk factors that could make someone to be more susceptible to developing periodontal disease. The contributing factors comprise some types of medications, smoking, diabetes, HIV, hormones, stress, and depression. Of these, smoking is the most important, increasing your risk of developing advanced gum disease up to seven times.
Gum disease is diagnosed by your dentist, who will look for a number of different signs to see how far your condition has developed. While red, bleeding gums often indicate gum disease, your dentist will also look for things it can be hard for you to see on your own. These include excessive plaque and tartar build-up, and tooth pocket depth. If there’s significant depth in the tooth pockets, your dentist might have x-rays taken to look further into the severity of your periodontitis.
Over the years various forms of gum treatments have been promoted. If you are in the early-to-moderate stages of gum disease, your dentist could suggest procedures and treatments such as:
· Scaling: this will remove plaque and tartar (hardened plaque), and bacteria from your teeth and below the gumline
· Root planing: this will smooth the root surfaces, which discourages further build-up or bacteria and removes buildup that is contributing to the inflammation
· Antibiotics: topical or oral antibiotics will help control an infection.
Sometimes surgical treatments are the best course of action for advanced cases. Surgical procedures could include pocket reduction surgery, soft tissue graft, bone graft, and guided tissue regeneration.
However, these treatments all have limited success in people who are unable to show effective plaque control. This emphasizes the importance of adequate cleaning techniques and the importance of gum health. Brushing removes the plaque from the surface of your teeth. Flossing removes the plaque and food particles stuck between your teeth and on your gumline. In addition, using an anti-bacterial mouth rinse reduces the bacteria responsible for plaque and gum disease.
Your dentist can help catch early signs of gingivitis at your regular check-ups. Professional dental cleanings, at least two times a year, will assist in cleaning some of the areas in your mouth that you might find more difficult to access. A dental hygienist will also show you how to clean your teeth effectively.
However, as the disease progresses and reaches periodontitis, it cannot be cured, only treated. If you suspect that you have gum disease or have other dental problems, seek help from your dentist as soon as possible. The right treatment plan will work to get your mouth healthy again, get you out of pain and improve your smile.
Crown Dental Studio is one of the few truly 24-hour dental practises in Durban as this is not limited to emergency dentistry treatment.
T: +27 81 207 8621