Gum Disease — Do you have it? What can you do about it?

Gum disease is an infection in the tissues that support and surround your teeth. Bacteria eat away the tooth structure, the bone that supports the teeth and the gum tissue that surrounds the teeth. It is the major cause of adult tooth loss.

The bacteria starts as a sticky film, called plaque. This plaque is continuously forming on your teeth, above and under your gums. As it accumulates, it hardens, turning into deposits called calculus, also known as tartar. As more calculus is present, inflammation occurs. The tricky thing about gum disease is that it usually doesn’t hurt. So, you may not know you have it.

If you’ve ever wondered if you do, in fact, have any gum disease, following are some of the warning signs that could indicate the presence of gum disease.

  • Red, tender, swollen gums – inflammation causes this
  • Gums that bleed easily – indicates the infection is there, although it may be in the early stages
  • Persistent bad breath or bad taste in your mouth – a sign of gum disease
  • Gums that have pulled away from your teeth – gum loss and bone loss cause this
  • A change in how your teeth come together when you bite – bone loss has occurred
  • Permanent, adult teeth that are loose – gums are detaching and bone is eroding
  • A change in the way your partial dentures fit – another indication of bone loss

If you have any of these symptoms, gum disease is present. If any of the following list apply to you, your risk of gum disease is increased.

  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Pregnant
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Diabetes
  • Teeth that are crooked and hard to clean
  • Taking certain medications, such as cancer therapy drugs, steroids, oral contraceptives and others.

If you do have any of the above symptoms, schedule an appointment for a thorough oral examination. If we find that you have mild to moderate gum disease, we can treat it with a procedure called scaling and root planing. We will remove the calculus (tartar) from your teeth, and smooth down the tooth root. That nasty bacteria can’t stick to a smooth surface. If your gums are inflamed and have pulled away from your teeth, removing the bacteria will shrink your gums so they can grab tightly to your teeth, keeping out new bacteria.

Special antibiotics also help to eliminate the bacteria, once you’ve had the scaling and root planing. These antibiotics are placed in the gum pockets and work over time to get rid of hard-to-reach bacteria. The entire treatment is done by our hygienists, who use state-of-the-art procedures and equipment to gently remove the tartar from your teeth and restore your smile to health.

If your gum disease has escalated to severe, we can treat you with the same procedures, but we may also have to remove some small areas of diseased gums. It is a non-surgical procedure, usually requiring just a local anesthetic. Once the diseased tissue is gone, healthy tissue can grow. Your gums will be healthy once more.

If you have any doubt about the health of your gums, set up an appointment for a consultation and let’s take care of any potential or existing problems before it’s too late.