What is gum disease?
Gum disease consists of alterations to the gums and bone that provide support to the teeth. There are two types of gum disease:
- Gingivitis: this is the reversible inflammation of the gums. Gingivitis manifests itself in the form of reddened gums that bleed easily and may become swollen. If it is not treated, it can progress and become periodontitis.
- Periodontitis or pyorrhea: this is a chronic disease that leads to the destruction of the bone that supports the teeth. Without treatment, the irreversible loss of bone and recession of the gums will cause the affected tooth to move, and potentially to fall out.
As the condition progresses, the gums recede and the teeth become loose.
There are three levels of severity:
– Early periodontitis
– Moderate periodontitis
– Severe periodontitis
What are the causes?
Both gingivitis and periodontitis are caused by the build-up of bacterial plaque and/or tartar (also known as dental calculus) in the space between the teeth and gums.
At Oris Dental Clinic (located in the neighborhood of Les Corts in Barcelona) we know that in addition to inadequate oral hygiene, there are other factors that can contribute to the development of these conditions, including:
- Smoking. Smoking lowers the gums’ defenses. For a smoker, the risk of tooth loss is six times higher than it is for a non-smoker.
- Incorrectly adjusted prostheses or fillings.
- The nervous habit of tooth-grinding.
- Poorly positioned teeth.
Consequently, the aim of our treatments for gingivitis and periodontitis is to eliminate as many of the causes as possible.
Additionally, some people are genetically predisposed to suffering from gum disease. In such cases, it is common for several members of the same family to have the condition.
Gingivitis and periodontitis can also be linked to certain pharmaceutical products (e.g. medication for blood pressure and epilepsy, patients who take a large amount of medication, etc.). This must be taken into account when deciding which course of treatment to follow.
Periodontitis is also linked to diseases such as diabetes. Gum infections are exacerbated by the consumption of sugar, while the failure to control diabetes can make the destruction caused by periodontitis even more severe.
In women, the hormonal changes that occur during puberty, pregnancy and the menopause can affect the gums, resulting in a number of different issues. However, all of these issues are treatable.
What are the symptoms?
Below, Oris Dental Clinic has provided a list of the most common symptoms that are found in patients with gum disease:
- Bleeding: the gums may bleed occasionally when the teeth are brushed. In more severe cases, you may notice bloodstains on the pillowcase. However, with pyorrhea, in many cases there is no bleeding. Patients who smoke tend to suffer less bleeding.
- Reddened gums: healthy gums are pink in color, while inflamed gums are red.
- Teeth that appear longer: as the gums recede, the roots of the tooth are exposed.
- Sensitivity to cold: this is due to the exposure of the root.
- Loose teeth: the teeth can become loose, to a greater or lesser extent, and may fall out if the problem is not treated correctly.
- Gaps between teeth: the teeth in front of the affected area move, which can have a highly detrimental effect on both appearance and functionality.
- Abscesses: these can occur during more advanced stages of gum disease.
Gum disease is not usually painful, meaning that it often goes undetected if your teeth are not checked by a dentist, dental hygienist or periodontist (a dentist who specializes in gum disease).
In order to ensure a correct diagnosis, the periodontist will perform a meticulous study of the gums, take X-rays and produce a periodontogram (a map of the gums), which will allow them to ascertain the condition of the bone and gums.
How can I prevent gum disease?
The most effective way to prevent gum disease is to ensure adequate and rigorous oral hygiene and to visit the dentist regularly, as early diagnosis makes treating the problem simpler.
If the condition has been treated correctly, the periodontist and dental hygienist should then educate you on the correct way to brush your teeth and gums, using the appropriate implements for each case.
As with chronic gum disease, in every instance patients must make regular maintenance visits in order to maintain the results of the treatment and ensure their gums and mouth remain healthy.