According to a recent survey by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), about half of adults aged 30 and above countrywide have some form of gum disease. In their findings, CDC researchers noted that gum disease is a major health concern among most people. While it is common in adults, gum disease can also occur in children and teenagers.

Luckily children are more likely to experience the milder version of gum disease, which is easily treatable when detected early. Regardless of age, as a rule of thumb, you should do whatever is necessary to keep this oral disease at bay. Not only can gum disease cause bad breath, but it can also worsen with time, leading to tooth loss and costly treatment costs.

Since it is not an overnight oral infection, you should learn the signs to watch out for during its onset or early stages for immediate treatment.

Understanding Gum Disease

As the name suggests, gum disease is an oral infection that affects your gums, and it occurs when bacteria that thrive in plaque buildup around your teeth invade your gums. Gums are the soft pinkish tissues that surround and anchor your teeth. During the early stages of this infection, also known as gingivitis, your gums will appear inflamed and red.

While the mild forms of gum disease or gingivitis is unpainful, when left untreated, the bacteria will cause your gums to recede or pull away from the teeth, causing more plaque buildup between your teeth and gums. This severe form of gum disease that occurs when gingivitis remains untreated is known as periodontitis and can potentially lead to tooth loss and bone loss.

Advanced levels of periodontitis can cause the spread of the infection to your bloodstream, putting you at risk of heart disease. Therefore, doing what you can to prevent this infection is important for better oral and general health. When prevention is no longer an option, early treatment is vital if you detect any signs or symptoms of gum disease.

Who is at More Risk of Gum Disease?

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, plaque buildup between your gums and teeth is the cause of gum disease. Plaque is typically the thin brownish film or layer of bacteria that forms on the surfaces of your teeth due to poor dental and oral hygiene habits.

If left unchecked, the plaque will advance and form a hardened substance known as tartar, which could require professional cleaning to remove. When this plaque extends below your gum line, it puts you at risk of gum disease. While this infection can occur to anyone due to poor oral and dental hygiene habits, the following factors can put you at more risk of gum disease or periodontitis:

  • Diabetes.
  • Smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco products.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Crooked or crowded teeth.
  • Broken fillings.
  • Genetic factors.
  • Certain medications like steroids and oral contraceptives.
  • Reduced immunity due to HIV.
  • Teeth grinding or clenching.
  • Loose dental appliances like braces.

According to research by the CDC, smoking cigarettes or tobacco is one of the greatest risk factors for gum disease. In this research, people who smoke cigarettes are twice more likely to have gum disease or periodontal disease than those who do not smoke or use tobacco products.

Common Signs of Gum Disease Among Most People

With early intervention, gum disease is successfully treatable for the healthy teeth and gums you deserve.

However, how will I know I have gum disease?

If you detect any of the following explained signs and symptoms, you should see a dentist as soon as possible because it could be an indicator that you have gum disease:

Persistent Bad Breath (Halitosis)

Every person can have bad breath, also medically known as halitosis, from time to time, especially after consuming onions, garlic, or other similar foods. However, if your halitosis does not disappear even after chewing gum mints and brushing your teeth twice daily, it could mean you have an underlying oral health issue like gum disease or tooth decay.

Persistent halitosis you experience if you have gum disease is due to the foul-smelling gasses released by bacteria that thrive on the plaque buildup on your teeth. Discussing the issue with your dentist is vital if you have persistent bad breath. Your dentist will help you determine if the issue is due to gum disease or other underlying health issues like kidney disease or diabetes.

If gum disease is the cause of the issue, immediate treatment will be necessary to avoid further health issues.

Swollen, Bleeding, or Sore Gums

The most visible sign of gum disease that most people will detect during the onset of this infection is bleeding, inflamed or sore gums. Generally speaking, healthy gums will not bleed when you floss or brush your teeth.

If you fail to floss and brush your teeth regularly (at least twice daily), the plaque buildup will advance and eventually irritate your gum tissues. When not treated early, bacteria in the plaque will attack gum tissues surrounding your teeth, eventually destroying fibers that make them remain attached to your teeth.

As a result, your gums will become irritated, inflamed, and more susceptible to bleeding when brushing your teeth. However, do not let the bleeding stop you from brushing and flossing your teeth as required because when you do so, the plaque buildup will continue to advance to severe levels. If bleeding persists after two weeks, chances are that you have gum disease.

For smokers, this bleeding issue is not common during the early onset of gum disease because tobacco restricts the normal flow of blood to their gums. That is why it is advisable to schedule frequent appointments with your dentist to detect any abnormal issues in your oral health before it is too late.

Tooth Sensitivity

Another common and easily detectable sign of gum disease is tooth sensitivity.

Do you feel an uncomfortable sensitivity in some of your teeth when you breathe in cold air, crunch on ice, or drink hot or cold drinks?

If so, chances are you have a tooth cavity or gum disease.

Tooth sensitivity, also known as dentin hypersensitivity, occurs when the enamel (the hard outer surface of your teeth) is eroded by acidic excrement released by bacteria, exposing the inner part of the tooth to stimuli such as cold drinks. Sometimes, pocketing and gum recession caused by gum disease can also make your teeth unusually sensitive.

Since your teeth’ roots have no enamel to protect them, gum recession will expose them to stimuli, making it painful and uncomfortable to consume your favorite meals due to sensitivity. If the sensitivity persists, you should consult a dentist because gum disease could be the issue and can worsen when left untreated.

Gum Recession

Have you noticed that some of your teeth look longer than others?

If so, it could mean you have gum disease because your teeth should not appear longer as you age. However, as gum disease advances or becomes more severe, some of your teeth could appear longer than others due to the recession of the gums surrounding them.

Gum recession typically occurs when the gums surrounding and supporting your teeth pull away due to bacterial invasion, which destroys the fibers and tissues that anchor them to the lower part of your tooth. Severe gum recession exposes the roots of your teeth, putting them at risk of infection and decay.

Aside from being a cosmetic concern, severe gum recession also increases the sensitivity of the affected tooth or teeth due to the exposure of the roots to stimuli like cold drinks. Progressive gum disease can cause deeper spaces around the affected tooth or teeth, also known as periodontal sockets.

In the later stages of this disease, these periodontal pockets become very deep, creating enough space to trap food debris. Because it is difficult to clean these pockets through your daily oral hygiene habits, this condition will continue to worsen with time because the trapped food debris creates a conducive environment for bacteria to thrive.

Although gum recession starts gradually, it can worsen with time if left unchecked or untreated during regular dental visits with your dentist. To know whether your gums are receding away, your dentist will take measurements of the outer surface of your tooth (above the gum line) in every appointment to easily gauge and know how much gums have recessed over time.

If these measurements continue to deviate from the normal range, your dentist will recommend you talk to a periodontist to stabilize or treat the root cause of the abnormality.

What to Do When You Detect any of the Above Signs of Gum Disease

Early detection of any of the above warning signs is key for effective treatment of the root cause of this issue, which is most likely a gum disease. If you think you are more prone to gum disease, or perhaps you have detected any of the above signs or symptoms, seeing a dentist as soon as possible would be a great place to start.

To determine if you have gum disease and its severity, your dentist will first check your medical record to see if you have a history of diseases that can put you at risk of periodontitis, like diabetes. Then he/she will carefully assess your mouth to see if you have a plaque buildup on your teeth and below the gum line.

Using a probe, he/she will check to see if you have periodontal pockets. A pocket deeper than four millimeters (4 mm) could indicate that you have periodontitis that requires immediate treatment.

Since the early stages of gum disease (gingivitis) do not affect the surrounding bone, imaging tests like X-rays will be unnecessary during the diagnosis process. However, in severe cases (advanced periodontal disease), your periodontist could require X-rays to see if you have any bone loss and its severity.

How Gum Disease is Treated

Seeking prompt treatment can reverse gum disease in its early stages and prevent it from progressing to more severe levels of periodontitis. Daily brushing and flossing of your teeth and regular dental appointments can keep oral issues, including gum disease, at bay. However, if prevention is no longer an option, there is no need to fret because it is a treatable oral issue.

Depending on the stage and severity of the condition, your dentist could recommend non-surgical or surgical methods, as discussed below:

Non-Surgical Treatment Options

If your gum disease is mild, the following treatments could work in your favor to stop its progression for a healthy life:

  1. Scaling and Root Planing

While routine dental cleaning is vital to keeping your teeth clean and healthy, it will not remove plaque buildup below your gum line. During scaling and root planing, also known as deep dental cleaning, your dentist will use special dentistry techniques to remove plaque buildup and bacteria from below your gum line down to your tooth roots.

The purpose of doing this is to prevent gum disease from progressing to severe levels. During scaling, your dentist will use special hand-held equipment known as a scalar to manually scrape off plaque buildup on your tooth surfaces and below your gum line. Alternatively, your dentist can also use an ultrasonic device or laser to remove this plaque for the healthy teeth and gums you deserve.

On the flip side, during the root planing procedure, your dentist will focus on smoothing your teeth' root surfaces to discourage any further plaque buildup and allow quicker healing of your gum disease.

  1. Dental Restoration

As mentioned earlier, gum disease can also be due to loose dental work like bridges, crowns, or braces. Poorly fitting braces or misaligned teeth can irritate your gums and make it challenging to scrape off plaque during your routine dental care.

If issues with your dental restorations cause your gum disease, your dentist will focus on fixing these issues to stop the progression of your gum disease.

  1. Antibiotics

Since gum disease is due to bacterial invasion, oral and topical antibiotics can also help treat the problem and give you the healthy gums you deserve. Topical antibiotics could include antibiotic mouthwash or creams containing antibiotics, which the dentist will insert into the spaces between the gums and teeth or periodontal pockets after a deep dental cleaning.

On the other hand, oral antibiotics are the drugs you will take orally to complete the elimination of the bacteria causing your gum disease.

Surgical Treatment Options

If you have advanced or severe periodontitis, surgery could be necessary to eliminate the problem, especially if it has led to bone or gum tissue loss. Below are various types of surgery your dentist could recommend:

  1. Flap Surgery

During this surgical procedure, your dentist will make minor incisions on your gums and lift them to allow deep cleaning of tooth roots and periodontal pockets where infection-causing bacteria thrive. Since periodontitis often causes bone loss, recontouring the bone underneath could be necessary before suturing your gums back to their ideal place in your mouth.

  1. Soft Tissue Grafts

Loss of gum tissues due to bacterial invasion can make them recede. When that happens to you, it could be necessary to reinforce your damaged tissues through a procedure known as soft tissue grafting. During this procedure, your dentist will remove soft tissues, mainly from the roof of your mouth, and use them to cover the affected site or tooth roots.

Alternatively, your dentist can use compatible soft tissues from another person or donor to cover the affected or delicate parts of your gums and stop the progression of the gum disease.

  1. Bone Grafts

If gum disease has led to bone loss, bone grafting could be necessary to restore the strength of the affected bone, which plays a critical role in supporting your teeth. The grafting is typically composed of small parts or fragments of your bone. If it is impossible to use pieces from your bones, your dentist could use compatible bone fragments from another person (donor).

Your dentist primarily performs bone grafting to prevent possible tooth loss by anchoring your affected tooth. Bone grafting also encourages the regeneration of the lost bone tissues.

Other surgical treatment procedures your dentist could recommend include:

  • Guided tissue regeneration.
  • Dental crown lengthening.

On top of all these treatments, your dentist will give you a home-based care plan to accelerate the healing process and prevent bacterial reinvasion. If you stay consistent with the recommended home-based care program, your gums should return to their natural pinkish color within a few days or weeks.

Find a Hawthorne Dentist Near Me

No matter how much your gum disease has progressed, this oral health condition is reversible. At Ganji Dental, we are experienced and dedicated to ensuring our clients have the best dental and oral health services. Our credible periodontists can explore several treatment options to reverse gum disease's effects on your mouth and give you the healthy and comfortable life you deserve.

Call us at 310-643-8045 and let our dependable periodontists take care of your dental health and smile needs wherever you are in Hawthorne.