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Gum Disease

Health & Lifestyle
Author : Dr. Harchand Singh DDS

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What is gum disease?


Gum disease or periodontal disease, a chronic inflammation and infection of the gums and surrounding tissue, is the major cause of about 70 percent of adult tooth loss, affecting three out of four persons at some point in their life.


What causes gum disease?



Bacterial plaque - a sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on the teeth - is recognized as the primary cause of gum disease. Specific periodontal diseases may be associated with specific bacterial types. If plaque isn't removed each day by brushing and flossing, it hardens into a rough, porous substance called calculus (also known as tartar). Toxins (poisons) produced and released by bacteria in plaque irritate the gums. These toxins cause the breakdown of the fibers that hold the gums tightly to the teeth, creating periodontal pockets which fill with even more toxins and bacteria. As the disease progresses, pockets extend deeper and the bacteria moves down until the bone that holds the tooth in place is destroyed. The tooth eventually will fall out or require extraction.

Are there other factors?

Yes. Genetics is also a factor, as are lifestyle choices. A diet low in nutrients can diminish the body's ability to fight infection. Smokers and spit tobacco users have more irritation to gum tissues than non-tobacco users, while stress can also affect the ability to ward off disease.


Diseases that interfere with the body's immune system, such as leukemia and AIDS, may worsen the condition of the gums. In patients with uncontrolled diabetes, where the body is more prone to infection, gum disease is more severe or harder to control.


What are the warning signs of gum disease?


Signs include red, swollen or tender gums, bleeding while brushing or flossing, gums that pull away from teeth, loose or separating teeth, puss between the gum and tooth, persistent bad breath, change in the way teeth fit together when the patient bites, and a change in the fit of partial dentures. While patients are advised to check for the warning signs, there might not be any discomfort until the disease has spread to a point where the tooth is unsalvageable. That's why patients are advised to get frequent dental exams.


What does periodontal treatment involves?


In the early stages, most treatment involves scaling and root planning - removing plaque and calculus around the tooth and smoothing the root surfaces. Antibiotics or antimicrobials may be used to supplement the effects of scaling and root planning. In most cases of early gum disease, called gingivitis, scaling and root planning and proper daily cleaning achieve a satisfactory result. More advanced cases may require surgical treatment, which involves cutting the gums, and removing the hardened plaque build-up and recontouring the damaged bone. The procedure is also designed to smooth the root surfaces and reposition the gum tissue so it will be easier to keep clean.


About Author
Dr. Singh uses the latest advances in cosmetic dentistry to reshape natural teeth and give people the gorgeous smile they've always wanted. He began his career in 1985 and got fellowship from Academy of General Dentistry in 1993- FAGD. The Academy of General Dentistry is an organization of general dentists dedicated to continuing education and reliable consumer information. He also did Mastership in General Dentistry in 2001. Today he is dedicated to providing the highest quality of care to all of his patients.

 

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