by Dr. Eric Browning, Muncie, IN
Types of gum disease include gingivitis and periodontitis. The mildest form of gum disease is gingivitis. Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gum tissue leading to red, swollen, and bleeding gums. This type of gum disease is completely reversible as it is most often caused by plaque accumulation. Adequate oral hygiene to remove the plaque will most times result in an alleviation of the gingivitis.
If allowed to progress, gingivitis becomes periodontitis. If plaque is not completely removed, it can work its way under the gum line. Once under the gum line, chronic inflammation sets in. This inflammation can lead to destruction of the bone and the tissues supporting the teeth. The gum tissue separates from the teeth creating pockets. As the disease progresses, pockets deepen and bone destruction increases.
Most of the time, periodontal disease is painless. Common symptoms of periodontal disease include:
- bad breath
- red, swollen gums
- gums that bleed when brushing or flossing
- loose teeth
- receding gums
- change in the way your teeth fit together
If left untreated, periodontal disease leads to the loss of teeth.
The main causative factor of periodontal disease is plaque, but there are other risk factors as well. These include:
Smoking-probably the most significant risk factor in the development and rate of progression of periodontal disease
Genetics-some people have a genetic susceptibility to periodontal disease
Stress-The body’s defenses are not as adept at fighting off bacteria due to stress. This includes the bacteria involved in periodontal disease
Diabetes– Undiagnosed or poorly controlled diabetes can worsen periodontal disease. Conversely, untreated periodontal disease can make blood sugar control more difficult for patients with diabetes
Clenching/Grinding of the Teeth-Excessive force applied to the teeth can be transmitted to the bone, thereby increasing the rate of bone destruction
Periodontal disease can be preventable. Removing food debris and plaque from in and around the teeth and gums is the mainstay of gum disease prevention. This includes:
- Brushing after meals
- Using dental floss or some other technique to clean in between the teeth, such as interdental brushes or Waterpik®
- Use mouthwash to remove any debris that brushing and flossing may have missed
- Visit your dental professional regularly
About Eric Browning, DMD
Dr. Browning received his DMD from the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry and his MS from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. He is a periodontist in Muncie, IN. He can be contacted at browningperiodontics.com.