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Saturday, March 17, 2012

How Gum Disease Develops

How Gum Disease  Develops

Gum disease begins when tartar buildup and bacteria beneath the gums cause infection, which is essentially an overgrowth of bacteria. The gums become inflamed, irritated and swollen as your body tries to fight the infection brewing below the gum line.  Plaque becomes more difficult to remove because it hides in pockets which form between tooth and gum.  As the gum disease advances, the infection eventually causes bone damage to occur and can lead to the loss of a tooth and sometimes, multiple teeth.

The Stages of Gum Disease 
  • Gingivitis- This is the mildest form of gum disease.   The gums may become inflamed, causing the space between gum and tooth to deepen, forming a pocket that is difficult to keep clean.  Gums may become red and swollen, or may bleed when probed.  Sometimes no symptoms exist at all and often goes unnoticed.  Gingivitis can often be controlled and some of the damage can be reversed with regular professional dental cleanings and routine brushing and flossing.  Left untreated, however, gingivitis can quickly progress into gum disease (periodontitis).

  • Periodontitis- Periodontitis is characterized by the gingivitis infection and inflammation having spread to the bone supporting the teeth.  This is often followed by the break down of the periodontal ligaments and the recession (shrinking back) of the gums.  Pockets begin to deepen and, at this point, are almost impossible to keep clean with routine homecare.  Redness, swelling and bleeding will most likely develop or get worse. The infection begins to cause deterioration of the bone surrounding your teeth as the bacteria from the periodontal infection multiply. Teeth may start to feel loose at this point due to the loss of bone that is occurring. 
  • Advanced Periodontitis - As gum disease advances, pockets get even deeper and may be pus-filled.  The gums may start to swell around the roots of the teeth and bone loss continues.  Symptoms of advanced gum disease may include sensitive to heat or cold and pain while brushing.  Teeth may really begin to feel loose due to the ongoing loss of bone and ligament.   In some cases, teeth may need to be removed to keep periodontal disease from spreading.
Gum disease is a chronic infection, which means there is no "cure".  The symptoms can be controlled and some of the damage can be reversed by having treatment with a gum disease specialist (periodontist).  In many cases, less advanced infections can be controlled by a procedure called scaling and root planing which is performed by a hygienist and will feel to you like a very deep, thorough cleaning.  Often, an antibiotic is placed in the deeper pockets during this procedure.  Your periodontist will probably recommend four professional cleaning per year after any periodontal treatment.  More advanced cases may require either traditional surgical procedures to reduce the gum pockets or laser gum therapy.

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