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Periodontal (Gum) Disease

What is gum disease?

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is an infection of gums, ligaments and the bone structure which support the teeth. Gum disease is a common dental problem of people over 18 years of age and nearly 75% of people over age 35 years are affected by some form of gum disease. It is an important cause of tooth loss in adults and yet the disease is preventable.

What causes gum disease?

Gum disease is caused by plaque, a sticky almost invisible film consisting mainly of bacteria. The bacteriain the plaque produce toxins that irritate gum tissue, causing gum tenderness, inflammation and pain.Gingivitis, inflammation of the gums, often precedes early gum disease. Gingivites is most easily noticed by red, swollen gums that bleed easily, frequently after toothbrushing. Gingivitis is quickly reversed by following an effective plaque removal routine. This is usually based on frequent (at least twice daily) effective use of the toothbrush to remove plaque. Other aids include dental floss, and special brushes to fit between teeth. It is in the hard-to-reach places that periodontal disease most easily gets started.

What are the symptoms of gum disease?

Gum disease can be painless and may occur without visible symptoms. The symptoms of early periodontitis (dentists’ name for gum disease that affects bone) may include tooth sensitivity, a feeling of intense pressure between the teeth or bleeding when flossing and brushing. The more advanced stages of periodontitis may be associated with gum recession, root decay, pus between teeth and gums, and loosening or loss of teeth. At this stage, there is usually a bad smell and a bad taste in the mouth. The loosening of teeth is due to destruction of the bone that supports teeth; bone loss is not easily reversed.

Other factors influencing gum disease

Any irregularity around the teeth will encourage the accumulation of plaque and make tooth cleaning difficult. Such factors include crooked teeth, poorly contoured fillings, some types of partial dentures and calculus (tartar). Calculus is plaque that has calcified to form hard deposits that stick to the teeth at the gum line. The deposits cannot be removed with a toothbrush and require cleaning by a dental professional.

Some pharmaceutical substances affect the gums by causing excess growth of gingival tissue. Meticulous hygiene can help prevent this. Smoking is a significant risk factor for periodontal disease, and having a smoking habit lessens the likelihood of treatment being successful.

How can gum disease be prevented?

Periodontitis is prevented by inhibiting the penetration of bacteria below the gum line. This is achieved by:

● effective, at least twice daily, brushing and flossing;
● regular dental visits for checkups and professional cleanings.

What is periodontal treatment

The simplest periodontal treatment involves professional removal of plaque, calculus (tartar) and any irregularities on fillings and crowns that allow the build-up of plaque or hinder its removal. If the condition has progressed so that bone has been destroyed and loss of attachment of the tooth has occurred, a dentist or periodontist may choose to lift the overlying gum, clean the root of the tooth or teeth, and reposition the gum in a way that makes it easier to keep the tissues clean.

Is it successful?

The most important determinant of the success of periodontal treatment is you. Success happens when you keep the teeth and gums free from plaque.

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