In our last post, we discussed how gum disease generally works. Gum disease is chronic inflammation that is caused when the oral bacteria infect your gums, in the form of plaque and dental calculus (tartar). Inflammation stays “on” until the infection is totally gone; if the infection is severe enough, it sticks around. In the case of gum disease, the infection is a direct result of neglecting your oral health.
If you fail to brush, floss, and rinse with mouthwash at least twice daily, and if you fail to see your dentist twice a year for examinations and cleanings, you are at a very high risk of developing gum disease. Gum disease that isn’t controlled early enough will result in the loss of teeth. Gum disease is the biggest contributor to tooth loss in the US, and it’s the reason why the average adult is either missing, or about to lose, at least three teeth in their lifetime. Lost teeth can be repaired, but why go through all that when you can stop it from happening in the first place!
Edgewood Dental (located in Edgewood, KY and serving everyone in the Northern Kentucky Metroplex) provides comprehensive treatment for gum disease. However, we haven’t done our job completely if we don’t make an effort to prevent gum disease by giving our patients and the general public a basic understanding of gum disease, and its symptoms. In this post, we’ll talk about the two stages of gum disease and the symptoms that you might easily miss (if you hadn’t read this blog post, of course!).
Gingivitis: Gum Disease Lite?
There really isn’t a “lite” form of gum disease, but gingivitis is the first and less serious stage of gum disease. It shouldn’t be taken lightly though; we have a strong suspicion that many people (even if they know the symptoms) tend to ignore the symptoms, or treat it the same way they might treat a warning from a traffic cop. It’s easier to do than you might think!
The problem with gingivitis is that while it is doing considerable damage to your gums as it progresses to the next, more serious stage, you won’t feel any discomfort at all. Because there’s no pain or discomfort to let you know in a very clear way that something is wrong, it’s very easy to miss the symptoms of gingivitis. If it goes unnoticed for long enough, it will get much worse (more on that shortly).
How Can I Know If I Have Gingivitis?
Despite the fact that gingivitis doesn’t cause the normal irritation and discomfort that you usually feel when you have an infection or something else wrong, there are some symptoms that you can identify.
- When you’re brushing your teeth, check the bristles of your brush, the sink (when you rinse), and your gums themselves for bleeding, or trace amounts of blood. Gums that bleed easily are a sign of gingivitis.
- Look at your gums closely. What color are they? If you see that your gums look more red than pink, that could be an indicator of gingivitis.
- Are your gums swollen, or puffy-looking? While you might not feel constant discomfort letting you know that something is wrong, your gums might be tender, especially when brushing or flossing.
How is Gingivitis Treated?
Gingivitis is a problem that needs to be taken care of immediately before it develops into the next stage of gum disease. Luckily, if you’re able to spot the symptoms and catch it before it does, gingivitis can be reversed relatively easily. You will first need to make an appointment with your dentist for a deep cleaning. From then on, you need to make sure that you’re doing all you can to keep your oral health in good shape (once again: brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash twice a day. Also, before you leave the dentists’ office, make sure to make an appointment no further out than six months from your last one).
Periodontitis: Tooth Loss is Next!
Stopping gingivitis isn’t difficult, but catching it early enough to do so sometimes can be a challenge. If you don’t see the symptoms of gingivitis and you don’t visit the dentist for regular exams, you’ll miss your chance to stop gum disease while it is easy to manage. It will develop into the next stage of gum disease known as periodontitis.
Where gingivitis’ symptoms are subtle, periodontitis’ symptoms are much more obvious.
Have you noticed lately that your teeth appear somehow longer than they once were? Your teeth aren’t getting longer, but your gums are getting shorter, in a sense.
As we discussed in the post prior to this one, gum disease happens when the plaque (bacteria) and dental calculus (tartar) spreads below the gum line, setting off the inflammation response of your immune system. Though you might not feel it yourself, your gums are getting “shorter” due to irritation caused by the infection on the surface of your teeth. Normally, your gums and teeth are close together, but if there is a serious infection, your gums will literally try to “get away” from your teeth by receding.
Like many hasty retreats, that only makes the situation worse. Imagine that your gums are like bedsheets. When they’re healthy, the bed is “made”: the corners are crisp and the sheets are flat on the bed. However, just like pulling down the sheets as you go to bed causes ripples and spaces to form on the bed’s surface, your gums create similar spaces. In the dentistry field, these are all (imaginatively) called pockets.
There’s an old expression that says: “Nature abhors a vacuum,” and the bacteria rush into the pockets. Once there, the bacteria go on doing what they have always done: eating sugar (glucose found in the bits of food that are in your mouth, and even in your saliva), and producing acid as wastes. These acids are the cause of cavities and tooth decay, and they do a lot of damage below the gum line as well. Throw chronic inflammation on top of that, and you’ve got a perfect storm of disease in your mouth. Your oral tissues, along with your jawbone are slowly destroyed until they can’t hold your teeth in place anymore.
Additional symptoms of periodontitis include halitosis (chronic bad breath) and in the most advanced stages of the disease, loose teeth or outright tooth loss.
Be Sure to Check Out Our Next Post!
Hopefully you’re learning just how serious gum disease is and just how important it is to see your dentist regularly and to stick to a disciplined oral health routine.
Have you noticed any of the symptoms you just read about? If so, call us immediately to make an appointment! New patients are usually able to be seen in the same week they call, so there’s no time like now to improve your oral health! Don’t risk tooth loss!
Dial 859-474-7830 now to reach the Edgewood Dental team and take the first steps to better health and a better smile!