Have you ever looked in the mirror and noticed something OFF about your smile? It could be that your gums look swollen or puffy or might’ve changed color to a bright red or even purple. Your teeth may be looking taller than usual or you may also have noticed that your gums bleed when you brush them. This definitely would’ve not just given you a scare, but also negatively impacted your confidence and self-esteem.
Common clinical signs of gum disease
If you happen to have experienced any of these common symptoms and gotten worried, let me assure you that these are very common findings, are harmless and completely reversible but ONLY if detected right away and treated promptly! These symptoms are the characteristic features of a condition known as gingivitis.
Gingivitis is an early form of gum disease and is described as mild inflammation of the gums. Regular dental checkups and good oral hygiene at home can help it go away and prevent the worsening of symptoms. However, if not addressed immediately, it may progress to a more severe condition known as periodontitis.
What causes gingivitis?
If you don’t clean your teeth regularly, food and bacteria may accumulate between your teeth and form a thin, sticky film, commonly known as plaque. When not removed appropriately, it gradually hardens into tartar or calculus near the gum line. Plaque and calculus together irritate the gums and cause inflammation. Inflammation, in turn, gives rise to all those symptoms that you observe clinically.
Calculus, or tartar on teeth
How does gingivitis differ from periodontitis?
If left untreated, gingivitis can rapidly progress to periodontitis. The inflamed gums gradually pull away from the teeth, forming large pockets or gaps between the teeth and gums. These gaps are the perfect breeding spots for bacteria and hence, can become infected.
The infection can quickly spread to the bone and supporting structures of the tooth. When this happens, bone and gum tissue are destroyed as it becomes increasingly difficult to keep these pockets clean. As the infection continues to spread, the pockets deepen and more bone is consequently destroyed. This inevitably leads to the loosening of the teeth and eventually tooth loss. Bone loss is the most characteristic feature of periodontitis.
Risk factors for gingivitis and periodontitis:
Apart from plaque and calculus, there are some other factors that can potentially lead to gingivitis and periodontitis. These are listed below:
- Smoking. Smoking affects the ability of the body to fight infection, and hence makes a person more prone to develop infections.
- Hormonal changes. Changes in hormones such as during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause can render the gums more sensitive, hence increasing the chances for inflammation.
- Diseases, such as diabetes, cancer and, HIV are linked to increased chances of gingivitis
- Poor diet. A diet lacking sufficient vitamin C can trigger gum inflammation
- Certain medications, such as oral contraceptives, steroids, anticonvulsants and, chemotherapy
- Genetic predisposition. Gum inflammation can be hereditary and passed down in families.
What are the symptoms of gingivitis and periodontitis?
In the early stages, gingivitis may not cause any noticeable symptoms. However, as the disease progresses to its later stages, some of the symptoms that start to appear are mentioned below:
- swollen gums
- red or inflamed gums, that are tender to touch
- gum recession
- bleeding from gums when brushing
- sensitivity of the teeth to hot and cold foods and drinks
- pain when chewing
- bad breath
- loose teeth
When to see a periodontist?
A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in the disease of the supporting structures of the tooth. If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, it is imperative that you see a periodontist right away to guarantee early diagnosis and successful treatment.
Our highly skilled and dedicated Periodontal Associates team at Aurora and Littleton is here to ensure that your concerns are addressed immediately and effectively. Early diagnosis is the major determinant to warrant a good prognosis post-treatment. Drs. Heller, Beckman, Thousand, and Hyer are extremely skilled periodontists who strive to make sure that your dental needs are consistently met, and the best possible treatment is provided.
You can book an appointment online or call us at (303) 755-4500 (Aurora) or at (303) 795-5700 (Littleton).
Complications of periodontitis:
If left untreated, periodontitis can irreparably damage the supporting structures of your teeth and the bones of your jaws. You may lose your teeth when this happens. Other complications include:
- formation of abscesses
- migration of teeth, causing spacing between your teeth or malalignment
- gum recession, causing sensitivity
- increased risk of systemic diseases, including heart disease, respiratory disease, and diabetes
How is gum disease diagnosed?
Gum disease is diagnosed by a periodontist by performing a thorough periodontal examination of your mouth. This exam comprises probing your gums with a dental probe, to check for pockets. The presence of periodontal pockets is an indicator of gingivitis. The pockets are then measured with the probe to determine the extent of inflammation. Your periodontist may also order X-rays of the jaws to look for bone loss.
Early diagnosis is key to achieving good treatment results. At Periodontal Associates, Drs. Heller, Beckman, Thousand, and Hyer are exceptionally adept at diagnosing and treating gum problems effectively and proficiently. Make sure to give us a call at (303) 755- 4500 (Aurora) or (303) 795-5700 (Littleton) and have us cater to your gum issues on time.
A dental probe used to detect and measure periodontal pockets
How is gum disease treated?
The goal of treatment is to eliminate the cause of the disease and restore the health of gums and teeth. This means striving for the reattachment of healthy gums back to the teeth, reducing swelling, pocket depth, and the progression of the disease.
Treatment options depend on the severity of the disease and range from nonsurgical therapies to control bacterial growth to surgical options aimed at regenerating lost tissues.
How can you prevent gum disease?
Gum disease is easily preventable by following basic oral hygiene habits. These include brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing between teeth every day, and visiting your dentist for regular checkups. Eating a balanced diet, high in vitamins and minerals is essential to maintaining healthy gums and teeth.
The doctors Heller, Beckman, Thousand, and Hyer at Periodontal Associates are constantly striving to provide you with the best possible dental care. We encourage you to contact us if you have any concerns regarding your oral health. Your satisfaction is of foremost importance to us!