Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is an infection of the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth, and a major cause of tooth loss in adults. It most often is caused by bacteria. If left along the gum line, these bacteria can irritate the gums and cause inflammation. The gums begin to bleed and swell, which allow the bacteria even more opportunity to go deeper under the gum line.
In the early stage of gum disease, called gingivitis, the gums can become red, swollen and easily bleed. At this stage, the disease is still reversible and can usually be eliminated by daily brushing and flossing.
Like some diseases, gum disease isn't painful until it reaches a more critical stage, in which treatment options narrow. If it goes unchecked, inflammation begins to allow surrounding bone to demineralize and dissolve. As the bone dissolves around the teeth in the more advanced stages of gum disease, called periodontitis, the gums and bone that support the teeth can become seriously damaged. The teeth can become loose, fall out or have to be removed by a dentist.
If you have persistent bleeding gums, seek treatment immediately.
In the stages of periodontitis, un-removed plaque hardens into tartar. As plaque and tartar continue to build up, the gums begin to recede from the teeth, and pockets form between the tooth structures and gums. In the advanced stages of periodontitis, gums recede even more, destroying more bone and leads to loose teeth and eventually tooth loss.
Scaling and root planing is a technique performed in a dental office to stop the adverse affect of periodontal disease. The procedure cleans below the gum line and smooths the roots. When the roots are smoothed, the gums will usually reattach to the root, stopping the bacteria from spreading. In some cases, this procedure may reverse, or at least stop the damage done by periodontal disease.
While bleeding or swollen gums is an early indicator of gingivitis, or swollen gums, they may sometimes occur from vigorous brushing. See your dentist if you are concerned. Regular checkups will be able to catch gingivitis in its early stages, and help you preserve your natural smile, for life.
Gingivitis often accompanies pregnancy. Pregnancy may also exaggerate the body's normal response to dental plaque. This is because four basic hormones vital to the continuation of pregnancy are produced in large quantities. This hormonal increase exaggerates the way the gum tissues react to the bacteria in plaque, resulting in an increased likelihood that a pregnant woman will develop gum disease if her daily plaque control is not adequate.
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