Approximately 19% of the global adult population suffers from gum disease, the leading cause of tooth loss. Unfortunately, many cases go untreated and develop severe complications. Furthermore, diagnosed cases are only caught in the late stages, after irreversible changes have already developed. Luckily, gum disease is preventable and manageable. Here is all you need to know about gum disease.
What is Gum Disease?
The gum is an oral structure that’s made up of tough connective tissue and surrounds the bones in the mouth and teeth. It forms a tight seal around the teeth that serves as a barrier against bacteria and a support structure for teeth.
Unfortunately, the gums are prone to disease. Gum disease/periodontal disease is a progressive condition that affects the gums and supporting structures. It results from inflammation of the tissue and can result in unstable teeth and tooth loss.
The initial stage of gum disease involves the damage of gingival tissue caused by toxins found in plaque. Bacteria then creeps in between the damaged gums and causes infection. As the infection gets worse, deeper tissues are involved, resulting in severe inflammation and irritation. As a result, the gums recede and become unstable. There are different forms of periodontal disease: gingivitis, chronic, necrotising, and aggressive periodontal disease.
Symptoms of Gum Disease
The initial stage of gum disease is gingivitis, where plaque forms around teeth. It presents with gum recession and bleeding while brushing. Periodontitis develops after bacteria infiltrate the gums and other deep structures. As a result, the gums become sore, and patients complain of loose teeth, bad breath, and a foul taste in the mouth.
Causes of Gum Disease
At the heart of gum disease is plaque formation. The impaction of plaque around the teeth sets off a cascade of inflammatory processes that lead to various forms of gum disease. However, there are other contributing factors.
Poor oral hygiene paves the way for the development and progression of gum disease. Unfortunately, failure to follow the right oral hygiene practices leads to the accumulation of plaque, the multiplication of bacteria, widespread tissue infection, and extensive tissue damage.
Infections that weaken the immune system can expose the gums to disease. For example, cancer and HIV are known to knock out the immune system. Furthermore, diabetes impairs tissue healing and accelerates the progression of gum disease.
Smoking is a poor habit linked to impaired oral health. It leads to delayed healing and poor immunity. Studies show that gum disease spreads faster in smokers than in non-smokers.
Medications have also been implicated in the progression of gum disease. Some drugs like anti-convulsants and anti-angina drugs are known to affect the growth of gum tissue and circulation of saliva, an instrumental component of oral immunity.
Gum Disease prevention
There are a variety of options available for the prevention of gum disease. These include:
Good Oral Hygiene Practices
Brushing your teeth regularly prevents the accumulation of plaque which is the initial stage of gum disease and tooth decay. The general recommendation is to brush your teeth at least twice a day. Each brushing session should last two minutes using an appropriate toothbrush and toothpaste.
Furthermore, dentists recommend flossing at least once a day to clear out the debris between teeth. Other effective oral hygiene practices include using mouthwash and rinsing the mouth after ingesting acidic fruits.
Healthy Balanced Diet
A healthy balanced diet maintains your immunity and minimises the accumulation of plaque. Furthermore, healthy foods are not harmful to teeth and gums. It's also imperative to avoid sugary foods, carbonated drinks, and acidic foods that can erode the enamel and damage gum tissue.
Management of Systemic Diseases
Management of chronic systemic conditions like diabetes and HIV improve oral health by maintaining optimal immune function and tissue healing capacity. Poor oral health may be a sign of treatment failure for systemic disease.
Routine Dental Check-ups
Routine dental visits help in the early diagnosis of gum disease and early treatment. As a result, the disease is reversed before complications develop. Furthermore, dentists provide professional advice that helps in the prevention of gum disease.
Treatment of gum disease includes non-operative and surgical interventions. Non-surgical interventions are effective in the early stages of gum disease. On the other hand, advanced cases require surgery for correction. Nonetheless, treatment is best coordinated by your dentist.
Although gum disease has a huge global burden, it is preventable and treatable. Consult your dentist for more information and professional advice.