Morgan Johnson, RDH
What is Gum Disease?
You may have heard your Dental Hygienist talk about gum disease at one of your appointments, and been left feeling a bit confused! Hopefully we will answer any questions you may have about it. The first thing to understand is that there are two different kinds of gum disease, also called periodontal disease; one is called “gingivitis” and the other “periodontitis.” We will discuss what causes gum disease, the difference between the two types, and how to treat it!
Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease. The gums can appear red and swollen, and will most likely bleed when brushed or flossed. This is most likely caused by poor oral hygiene habits (not brushing and flossing regularly). But, it could also be caused by other factors such as smoking, aging, genetic predisposition, systemic diseases and conditions, stress, inadequate nutrition, puberty, hormonal fluctuations, pregnancy, substance abuse, HIV infection, and certain medication use.
Luckily, this stage is reversible. By brushing for two minutes morning and night, flossing at least once a day, and making sure you are visiting your dental hygienist regularly, this disease can be reversed!
Periodontitis is the more advanced stage of gum disease, and occurs when gingivitis has gone untreated. The plaque eventually spreads below the gum line and irritates the gum tissues. When the bacteria eat away at our gums, deep pockets are formed. The body’s inflammatory response becomes stimulated, which in turn destroys the supporting bone and tissues, which hold our teeth. Without that underlying support system, our teeth can become loose and eventually fall out.
How is gum disease treated?
There are many different treatment options, depending on what stage of gum disease is present. A preventive cleaning, or Prophylaxis, is performed to remove the plaque and tartar build up on a healthy mouth, in order to prevent gum disease. A deep cleaning, or Scaling and Root Planing, is performed on a mouth that has active gum disease. This includes removing plaque and tartar buildup above and deep below the gum line. In addition, we will irrigate the pockets (the space in between your teeth and your gums) with a prescription strength mouth rinse that will help kill bacteria deep in those pockets. If a more extensive treatment is needed, we will often refer you to a Periodontist, a dentist who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of periodontal disease.
Hopefully this has been helpful in answering any questions you had about gum disease, and as always, ask us if you have any further questions! We would love to answer them.
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