Many people assume that tooth loss is only inevitable at old age, but the truth is if you keep gum disease at bay, your teeth can last for a lifetime. Gum disease, also called periodontitis, is a bacterial infection of the gums and bones that support the teeth. When the disease goes untreated for a long time, the tissues supporting the teeth break down, causing your teeth to fall out. Apart from the loss of teeth, you can experience severe symptoms at advanced stages that might require you to visit a general dentistry practice.
At Washington Dental, we are dedicated to offering top-notch periodontal disease treatment in Carson, CA. Below we have discussed the causes of the disease, symptoms to look out for, factors that increase the risk of the disease, diagnostics, treatment, and how to prevent the disease, to help you understand what you are dealing with.
What is Gum Disease?
The other name for gum disease is periodontal disease or periodontitis, and it often occurs due to plaque and tartar build-up in the mouth. When you fail to observe healthy oral habits like brushing and flossing teeth regularly, the build-up allows for bacteria growth, which, if left untreated, causes tooth loss. The disease often develops in two stages which are; gingivitis and periodontitis.
Gingivitis is the initial stage of periodontal disease and often doesn’t cause any destruction in the gum tissue. The phase is characterized by red and puffy gums that frequently bleed during brushing. Despite gingivitis being the stage before periodontal disease, not all kinds of disease progress to periodontal disease.
Additionally, the gingivitis phase is non-destructive because the teeth remain firm in the sockets with no damage to the tissues and bones. However, you might experience some irritation in the gums, though most of the time, the symptoms are minor, so you might not realize you have the condition.
With proper oral hygiene and brushing of teeth per the dentist’s instructions, the condition can be resolved. Besides, you can visit a dentist for professional cleaning to remove all the tartar build-up. However minor your symptoms, you should visit your dentist for cleaning so that the condition doesn’t progress to the next phase.
Periodontal disease or periodontitis is the more advanced stage of gum disease and often results from untreated gingivitis. The condition involves the slow build-up of plaque on the gums, which gradually breaks down the gums and causes irreversible damage to the bones anchoring them. The illness is common among adults, and if left untreated, the gums lack enough oxygen supply causing tissue damage, which eventually results in missing teeth.
There are several ways plaque causes periodontal disease. One of the ways is through plaque forming around the teeth. The food you take contains starches and sugars with healthy and unhealthy bacteria. If you don’t brush and floss your teeth often, these residues builds-up to form plaque around the teeth, creating enabling conditions for bacteria growth. The plaque might be removed through brushing, but it recurs whenever you stop observing healthy oral habits.
Similarly, you may develop periodontitis because of plaque when plaque hardens beneath the gum lines, turning into tartar, which causes more damage to the teeth and gingiva. You cannot eliminate tartar through brushing and flossing, so you may want to visit the dentist.
The other way of developing periodontitis is gum inflammation and irritation around the tooth base. The inflammation creates spaces between the teeth and gums, which over time accumulates food particles and debris, increasing the risk of bacteria growth and infection. The infection then spreads to the area underneath the gum lines causing bone and tissue damage. The destruction stems from the toxins produced by the bacteria in these areas, producing toxins that eat away the connective tissues and bones. When the damage continues, the teeth are left loose in their sockets, increasing the risk of missing teeth.
Note that periodontal disease takes different forms. These are:
Chronic Periodontal Disease
Chronic gum disease often stems from plaque build-up that gradually damages the bones and the gum tissues supporting the teeth. You will rarely find this condition among children, although it’s prevalent among adults.
Aggressive gum disease is genetic, meaning it affects families, mainly children. In rare cases, the condition can progress even after adulthood. Unlike chronic gum disease, aggressive periodontitis causes bone damage faster, thus resulting in missing teeth.
Necrotizing is the most severe form of periodontitis, and it usually prevents blood flow to the gums resulting in the death of supporting bone, gums, and tooth ligaments. If you have a weak immune system, you are likely to suffer from this condition.
Causes of Gum Disease
Your mouth contains both healthy and harmful bacteria, that when it mixes with food particles and mucus, forms a substance called plaque. The substance can easily be removed by brushing and flossing teeth as recommended by dental professionals. However, when you fail to observe healthy oral hygiene, the plaque will accumulate, forming a substance known as tartar which requires a dental expert to eliminate.
Plaque and tartar contain poisonous and toxic bacteria, which causes gum irritation and damage. When the gums become inflamed, the tartar enters into the gaps between the gum and teeth and destroys gum tissues, thus forming pockets.
If left untreated, the bacteria spreads to the inner gum tissues and even the supporting bone, causing further damage. In these extreme scenarios, teeth begin falling out, and this is when most adults are forced to take action and visit a periodontist.
Symptoms of Gum Disease
Gum disease is a gradual and gentle condition that starts without any pain-causing symptoms. However, in the beginning, you will experience red and puffy gums, which bleed whenever you brush and floss teeth.
Besides, you might begin to experience a constant bad breath or taste in the mouth that doesn’t go away even when you use mouthwash. Although poor oral habits often cause bad breath, sometimes it might be an indicator of gum disease. The smell and taste usually occur due to gum irritation, plaque growth, and bleeding in the gum tissues. This stage is known as the gingivitis phase and usually has mild symptoms.
If you ignore early symptoms and fail to seek treatment, the condition progresses to periodontitis, where you begin to experience severe symptoms. Usually, bacteria damage the gums causing sockets around the gum line. The bacteria eats away the margin of your gum tissue, causing it to wear out and pull back. The receding of gums leaves the tooth root exposed and further creates spaces between teeth and gums that allow for the accumulation of bacteria and tartar. At first, you might not notice gum recession because it’s a slow process, but it will be one of the symptoms you experience when the condition becomes severe.
When gum pulls away, spaces appear between the gums and teeth that allow for the growth of bacteria. If the bacteria spreads to the jawbone, it loosens and shifts the teeth because there is no support.
Most of the symptoms of gum disease show at late stages when the condition has progressed. You might be suffering from the illness even without knowing, and by the time the symptoms begin to appear, it might be too late to save the tooth. Therefore, you are encouraged to visit your dentist regularly for checkups and cleaning. If you maintain regular visits to the dental clinic, they might notice the gingivitis signs early and perform treatment before the problem advances. The treatment at the gingivitis stage involves professional cleaning to remove the tartar.
Factors Contributing to the Growth of Gum Disease
Plaque might be the primary cause of gum disease, but other factors increase the risk of developing this condition. These factors are:
You can develop periodontal disease due to hormonal changes. These cases are common among women, mainly at puberty, during menstruations, pregnancy, or menopause. The hormones produced cause an increase in blood flow to the gum tissues, increasing reaction to any form of irritation. The irritation increases the risk of developing gingivitis because it causes bleeding and gum irritation, which are common symptoms of gingivitis.
Chronic ailments like HIV and cancer increase the chances of developing periodontitis. These illnesses suppress your immune system making you prone to bacteria causing infection. Diabetes might also increase the risk of developing periodontitis because it causes an imbalance in blood sugars, interfering with the ability of the body to heal by itself, thus contributing to periodontal disease.
Smoking and Tobacco Chewing
If you chew tobacco or smoke, you are at risk of developing periodontal disease. Remember, the condition is caused by bacteria that exist in plaque and tartar. Prolonged smoking causes a substance known as tartar in the mouth, a mix of bacteria, mucus, and food particles that causes gum disease. Smoking will affect you even during recovery after receiving because your unhealthy mouth and the conditions might not be conducive for healing.
Consuming Particular Medications
Some medications cause a drying effect in the mouth, reducing the saliva flow. This, in turn, increases the pockets for bacteria and plaque to hide, creating the perfect conditions for developing periodontal disease. Also, saliva creates a layer on the teeth and gums, lowering the risk of gum disease. When you take medications like aspirin, they might erode the gums causing sores that attract bacteria, resulting in gum disease.
Family History of Periodontal Disease
You may be at a higher risk of suffering from gum disease if your family has a history of the disease. If the condition is genetic, practicing healthy oral hygiene will not save you from the disease. However, if you seek treatment early enough, the dentist might identify the symptoms before the condition progresses and provide the appropriate treatment.
If you have crooked teeth, observing proper oral habits like cleaning the teeth and mouth becomes a problem. This is because crooked teeth cause overlaps which leave spaces between the teeth that are difficult to clean. These areas are conducive to plaque accumulation, enabling the growth of bacteria commonly associated with gum disease.
Stress also increases the risk of developing periodontal disease, though poor oral hygiene remains a significant contributor to gum disease. So, you can lower the risk of developing the illness by regular cleaning of teeth and visits to the dental clinic.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Gum Disease
If you suspect you are suffering from periodontitis, you should reach out to your dentist right away. The earlier you seek treatment, the higher the chances of recovery. During your first visit, the dentist will conduct a diagnosis by:
- Keenly assessing the gums to look for inflammation signs
- The dentist will then use a probe to measure the depth of the pockets around the margin of your gums. The standard depth of pockets in a healthy mouth range from one to three millimeters. If you experience anxiety during dental procedures, there is no need for panic because this measurement process is usually painless.
- While performing the diagnosis, the dentist might inquire about your dental history. If you are a smoker or suffer from chronic illnesses like diabetes and cancer, the chances of having gum disease are high, so it’s crucial to share your history. If the disease runs in the family, you should consider opening up about this because it helps with an accurate diagnosis.
- If the periodontal disease has spread to the jawbone supporting the teeth, the dentist will recommend an x-ray to view the extent of damage caused on the bone, if any.
- Where the condition requires a specialist, your general dentist will refer you to a periodontist, who are dental experts that diagnose and treat gum disease. These professionals have additional training and experience on periodontal disease and will provide top-notch treatment for your gum condition.
- A diagnosis might also include examining teeth alignment and sensitivity. If the teeth are crooked or sensitive, you are at risk of developing periodontal disease.
Gum Disease Treatment
After the correct diagnosis and the dentist establishes that you have gum disease, they will discuss your treatment options. Treatment for periodontitis is aimed at enhancing the reconnection of the broken gum tissues. Further, the treatment aims at reducing pocket depths and inflammation.
Different treatment options for gum disease are available, and your dentist will recommend the most appropriate based on the advancement of the condition. Take your time and discuss these treatment options based on the diagnosis.
Treating periodontitis doesn’t mean it can’t reoccur. You must observe healthy oral habits after the procedure because if you don’t, plaque will build up in the mouth again, and the symptoms of the illness will be back. Profound dentists will even recommend behavior adjustments to lower the risk of the disease. For smokers, the dentist will recommend that you quit smoking to prevent recurrence of the condition and enable quick healing.
There are two treatment options for gum disease, which are surgical and non-surgical. The procedure to apply in your case depends on the phase or stage of the gum disease.
Your dentist will recommend non-surgical treatment if the disease is in the early stages. The treatment is intended to manage bacteria growth. The non-surgical treatment options your dentist will suggest include:
Teeth cleaning is the treatment you will undergo if your condition is at the gingivitis phase. The therapy often happens during routine checkups when the dentist comes across tartar build-up. You cannot remove tartar through brushing and flossing, which is why the dentist conducts cleaning using special tools to clean both above and beneath the gums. Cleaning is an excellent preventive measure, but it might not be the most appropriate if your condition is advanced because it only prevents bacteria growth but doesn’t treat the disease.
Planing and Scaling
Planing and scaling teeth roots is another non-surgical procedure. Like teeth cleaning, the treatment eliminates tartar on under and above the gum lines. The treatment involves scraping or scaling tartar from the gumline surfaces. Because doing so can cause some discomfort, the expert administers a local anesthetic to help with the relaxation.
After removing the tartar, the dental professional smoothens the tooth surfaces by planing to eliminate bacteria and provide clean teeth surfaces that will allow the gums to reattach. The treatment is appropriate where there is tartar or plaque build-up.
Gum Disease Surgical Treatment
If you are dealing with active periodontal disease, surgical procedures are the most appropriate treatments. The common surgical treatment your dentist might recommend are:
If your condition has advanced to the jawbone supporting the teeth, the bone will require grafting using artificial or natural bone to strengthen or replace the jawbone that has been lost due to gum disease. Grafting helps stimulate the bone to grow and integrate to restore tooth stability. Tissue engineering is another way the oral surgeon performing the procedure can enable regrowth of the worn-out jawbone and gums.
Soft Tissue Grafts
Grafting is also performed on gum tissues after the recession. The procedure is performed using soft tissue extracted from the roof of your mouth to fill the gaps left by receded gums. The disease has caused thinning of the gum tissues; repairs can be performed through soft tissue grafting. After the tissue has been extracted, it is attached to the gum areas that require repair, thus restoring healthy gums and eventually strong teeth.
Pocket Reduction Surgery
Remember, pockets in a healthy mouth should not surpass the depth of 3 mm. If they are deeper than this, it means you have gum disease, and the best way to reduce these pockets is through flap surgery, which involves lifting the gums and removing the plaque or tartar underneath them. During the treatment, the periodontist might smooth the damaged supporting bone and other irregular surfaces in the mouth so that bacteria can have no space to grow and spread.
Once tartar is removed, the gum tissues are placed back again, and this time they fit well without leaving gaps that usually create space for bacteria accumulation. By undergoing flap surgery, you reduce the risk of developing other oral conditions associated with periodontitis.
Bone loss stemming from gum disease results in craters on the supporting bone. Your dentist will recommend bone surgery to smooth the shallow cavities and reshape the bone to address the problem. The recesses are reduced, making it challenging for plaque or tartar to accumulate around these areas causing the disease to recur.
What is the Cost of Treatment?
Based on the severity of the gum disease, you will pay between $500 to $10,000 for the treatment, scaling and planing, which costs between $140 to $210. On top of these costs, you might have to pay therapy costs of around $115.
The cost you pay for treatment depends on multiple factors like:
- The technology used in administering the procedure
- Where your dentist is located
- The form of insurance coverage your policy provides
- The necessary treatment plan
A general dentist can perform both the diagnosis and treatment. However, for advanced gum disease, they might refer you to gum disease specialists. Periodontists usually have extra three years of gum training to perform complex non-surgical and surgical procedures.
How Can Gum Disease Be Prevented?
As stated earlier, the main cause of gum disease is plaque buildup. Therefore, the most efficient way of preventing the disease is by observing good oral habits that control plaque. Brushing and flossing teeth regularly as per the dentist’s instructions can help prevent the condition because it removes the plaque in reachable areas. If your plaque has already hardened into tartar, you must visit the dentist twice a year for professional teeth cleaning.
Similarly, making a few lifestyle changes can help prevent the disease. Some of these changes include quitting smoking, avoiding stress, and maintaining a proper diet. Eating a balanced diet strengthens your immune system, which in turn helps fight bacterial infections in the mouth, preventing gum disease. On the other hand, avoiding stress enables your body to maintain its natural immune system that fights bacteria associated with gum disease.
Find the Right General Dentist Near Me
If you observe gum disease symptoms like bad breath, red and inflamed gums, or bleeding, you need to visit an experienced general dentist in Carson, CA, for diagnosis. Early diagnosis ensures the disease doesn’t progress and it’s treated to avoid other oral complications. Washington Dental can help prevent the progress of periodontal disease by removing plaque and tartar and reverse the condition. Contact us today at 310-217-1507 for a free initial consultation.