Many of us are rightfully concerned about suddenly being diagnosed with one or more cavities upon a visit to the dentist. After all, cavities are often associated with fillings, root canals and (in severe cases) even tooth extractions.
Although these are all valid points, advanced periodontal disease can pose equally grave risks if left unchecked.
One reason why many adults suffer from gum disease involves its rather innocuous nature at first glance. After all, bleeding gums might sometimes heal themselves without requiring any type of professional intervention.
This is actually a dangerous attitude to adopt and it could result in some fairly serious consequences. This article will serve to highlight the causes of periodontal disease, the relationship of this condition with your teeth — and why it is crucial to seek expert help at the first sign of trouble.
Gum Disease at a Glance: Some Startling Statistics
To put things into perspective, studies have found that just over 47 percent of all adults are experiencing issues with their gums; many of these are advanced gum disease, known as periodontal disease. This figure jumps to more than 70 percent when referring to individuals who are 70 years of age or older.
So, why are some individuals hesitant to seek treatment? One of the reasons involves the seemingly mild symptoms that will often occur during the earlier stages. What are some signs that an expert diagnosis and treatment are in order?
The Insidious Nature of Gum Disease
Unlike issues associated with the teeth, it can be say to downplay the early signs of periodontal disease. These may include:
- Gums that have taken on a reddish or purplish hue.
- Gums that may become sensitive to the touch.
- Slight bleeding when you brush and floss.
Other symptoms such as bad breath and a bitter taste within the mouth could likewise be associated with other oral health conditions.
So, we can appreciate the danger of allowing gum abnormalities to left unchecked. Studies have also shown that these problems will not abate on their own accord.
What are the Stages of Gum Disease?
Similar to other oral health conditions, issues with gums tend to develop over time as opposed to presenting themselves as an acute illness. Here are some of the ways in which periodontal disease may progress:
- Initial periodontitis (the gums begin to pull away from the teeth)
- Moderate periodontitis (the soft tissues beneath the teeth may become affected; causing them to become noticeably loose).
- Severe (advanced) periodontitis eventually resulting bone degradation and/or tooth loss
Although these scenarios may appear to be frightening at first glance, prevention is still the most powerful approach. Still, we need to understand the mechanics of gum disease to fully understand the available treatment options.
What Factors Can Place the Health of Your Gums in Jeopardy?
Experts agree that an accumulation of dental plague is the predominant cause of issues with the gums. The problem here is that any plaque allowed to form upon the surface of a tooth will eventually cause the gum tissue to separate from the enamel.
As a direct result, bacteria will begin to enter into the gap. This is the very same reason why those who practice poor oral hygiene habits are much more likely to be diagnosed with periodontal disease, particularly later in life.
While brushing and flossing are obviously crucial, additional lifestyle choices and even scenarios out of your control can play significant roles. These include (2):
- Chronic conditions such as lupus and Crohn’s disease
- Prolonged states of dehydration
- Issues with the heart such as cardiovascular disease (inflammation is thought to play a role)
Problems with the gums are therefore much more complicated that many individuals have been led to believe.
How Will a Professional Diagnose a Problem?
Dentists are well aware of the threats that gum problems pose. This is why they will normally offer an in-depth examination during a standard visit.
If periodontitis is suspected, a probe may be used in order to analyse the gap between your teeth and the surrounding gum tissue. Other methods such as checking if a tooth has become loose and x-rays could also be employed.
Either way, you will be provided with the clarity required to better understand your treatment options.
Treatment and Management
Those who have been diagnosed with early-onset periodontitis may be able to reverse the effects with the help of proper oral care techniques. However, gum disease could also come to a point when the best strategies involve mitigating the associated effects in order to minimise further damage. Assuming that professional intervention is warranted, some of the techniques that a dentist may employ include:
- Scaling (scraping away any plaque found between the teeth and the gums).
- Planing (smoothing tooth surfaces so that bacteria are less likely to attach).
- Surgical interventions that are intended to remove the affected gum tissue.
- Assuming that periodontal disease is detected, bone grafting to provide the teeth with more solid anchors.
Ultimately, the recommended treatments will depend on the condition of your gums as well as your overall oral health.
How to Prevent a Worse-Case Scenario
There are many ways in which you can lessen the chances that you will require one or more of the interventions mentioned above. The most logical involve adopting the proper oral care techniques. For instance, brush your teeth at least each day and make it a point to floss before going to sleep. When combined with a diet low in refined sugars and timely visits to your dentist, the results become clear.
Are you worried about the state of your gums? If so, why delay another day? Contact your dentist in order to make certain that the health of those pearly whites and their fleshy anchors are never called into question!