What is Gum Disease / Periodontal Disease?

What is Gum Disease / Periodontal Disease?

What is Gum Disease / Periodontal Disease?

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a common condition that affects the gums, teeth, and supporting structures of the mouth. It is caused by a bacterial infection that leads to inflammation and damage to the tissues that surround and support the teeth. The bacteria in the mouth constantly form a sticky, colorless plaque on the teeth. If this plaque is not removed by daily brushing and flossing, it can harden into tartar (also called calculus), which can only be removed by a dental professional. When plaque and tartar build up on the teeth, they can irritate and inflame the gums, leading to gingivitis, which is the mildest form of gum disease. If gingivitis is left untreated, it can progress to more severe forms of gum disease, such as Periodontitis.

Teeth may become mobile in the advanced stages of Periodontitis because the infection has caused the bone and other structures that support the teeth to break down, leading to loosening of the teeth. Gum disease can also lead to changes in the color of the teeth, which can appear darker or more yellow due to the inflammation and buildup of bacteria and plaque.

Gum disease typically develops slowly and is often painless in the early stages, which is why it is important to have regular dental check-ups to catch it early.

The symptoms of gum disease can include:

  • Red, swollen, or tender gums
  • Bleeding gums, especially during brushing or flossing
  • Receding gums, which can make the teeth appear longer
  • Loose or shifting teeth
  • Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth

Several factors can increase the risk of developing gum disease, including:

  • Poor oral hygiene: Failing to brush and floss regularly can allow plaque and tartar to build up on the teeth and gums, leading to gum disease.
  • Tobacco use: Smoking or using tobacco products can increase the risk of gum disease and make it more difficult to treat.
  • Genetics: Some people may be genetically predisposed to developing gum disease.
  • Age: The risk of gum disease increases as people get older.
  • Hormonal changes: Hormonal changes during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause can make the gums more sensitive and increase the risk of gum disease.
  • Certain medications: Some medications can increase the risk of gum disease, such as medications that reduce saliva flow or cause gum tissue to overgrow.
  • Health conditions: Certain health conditions, such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS, can increase the risk of gum disease.

Preventing gum disease involves practicing good oral hygiene habits, such as brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and getting regular dental check-ups and cleanings. It is also important to avoid smoking or using tobacco products, eat a healthy diet, and manage any underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, that can increase the risk of gum disease.

If you suspect that you may have gum disease, it is important to see a dentist or periodontist for an evaluation and treatment as soon as possible to prevent further damage to your teeth and gums.