Gum disease has different stages and different treatments for each stage.
The first stage of gum disease is gingivitis. Gingivitis is common and is defined as irritation, redness, and inflammation of the gum tissues. This stage of gum disease is reversible. If gingivitis is left untreated it can lead to a non-reversible disease called periodontal disease.
A common cause of gingivitis is poor oral hygiene. You may experience swollen, red, bleeding, and tender gums if you have gingivitis.
Gingivitis can be treated by a preventive cleaning and a good home care routine. A preventive cleaning is what is typically done every 6 months at your hygiene appointments.
The next stage of gum disease is periodontal disease. About 45% of adults over the age of 30 have some form of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is defined as a serious gum infection that damages gum tissue and the bone in the infected areas. It is common to see gums pulling away from the tooth, bone loss, loose teeth, and even loss of teeth if someone has severe periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria that harbors within plaque and calculus spreading below the gum line. In these hard to clean spaces the bacteria grows and destroys the gum attachment to your tooth. The body then responds by taking away bone close to the infected areas. This process continues and worsens overtime until it is treated. Periodontal disease can vary from early to severe stages.
Periodontal disease can be treated with gum therapy. Gum therapy is a specialized dental service that aims to treat periodontal disease. It involves thorough removal of plaque and calculus from teeth to promote healthy gum attachment.
During a gum therapy appointment your dental hygienist may get you numb. This is to ensure that you are comfortable during the appointment. Laughing gas is always provided for those that want it. Once you are comfortable, your hygienist will use ultrasonic instruments and scaling instruments to remove plaque and calculus from all tooth surfaces above and below the gumline. Antibiotics are placed in the gum tissues at some gum therapy appointments to promote healing.
After gum therapy it is important to create good home care habits such as brushing twice a day, flossing or using a water flosser at least once a day, and going to routine periodontal maintenance appointments.
Gum therapy is different from a preventive cleaning because rather than preventing gum disease, gum therapy is intended to treat periodontal disease.
About a month after your gum therapy appointment you will be seen again to assess healing and discuss possible changes in your home care routine. About three months after your gum therapy appointment you will be seen for your first periodontal maintenance appointment.
Periodontal maintenance appointments are usually done every three months, but that will be decided between you and your dental hygienist based on your healing and home care. Any plaque and calculus that has built up after your gum therapy appointment will be removed at your periodontal maintenance appointment. You will not need to be numb at periodontal maintenance appointments.
Listed below are some risk factors for gum disease.
- Poor oral hygiene: Failing to brush and floss regularly can allow plaque to accumulate on the teeth and gums, leading to gum disease.
- Tobacco use: Smoking and using other tobacco products can increase the risk of gum disease and make it harder to treat.
- Genetics: Some people may be more prone to developing gum disease due to their genetic makeup.
- Age: The risk of developing gum disease increases with age.
- Certain medications: Some medications can increase the risk of gum disease, including those that cause dry mouth.
- Hormonal changes: Hormonal changes during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause can increase the risk of gum disease.
- Health conditions: Certain health conditions, such as diabetes, can increase the risk of gum disease.
- Poor nutrition: A diet lacking in important nutrients can weaken the immune system and make it harder to fight off infections, including gum disease.