Forums Expat Q&A What causes Gum Disease, and what are my treatment options?

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    • #9273
      Grace Ordonez

      Periodontal diseases range from simple gum inflammation to serious disease that results in major damage to the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth. Whether your gum disease is stopped, slowed, or gets worse depends a great deal on how well you care for your teeth and gums every day, from this point forward. If you have been told you have periodontal (gum) disease, you’re not alone.
      What causes gum disease?
      Plaque that is not removed can harden and form “tartar” that brushing doesn’t clean. These bacteria, along with mucus and other particles, constantly form a sticky, colorless “plaque” on teeth. Only a professional cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist can remove tartar. Brushing and flossing help get rid of plaque.
      Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease that can usually be reversed with daily brushing and flossing, and regular cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist. This form of gum disease does not include any loss of bone and tissue that hold teeth in place. The bacteria cause inflammation of the gums that is called “gingivitis.” In gingivitis, the gums become red, swollen and can bleed easily. The longer plaque and tartar are on teeth, the more harmful they become.
      Bacterial toxins and the body’s natural response to infection start to break down the bone and connective tissue that hold teeth in place. In periodontitis, gums pull away from the teeth and form spaces (called “pockets”) that become infected. If not treated, the bones, gums, and tissue that support the teeth are destroyed. The body’s immune system fights the bacteria as the plaque spreads and grows below the gum line. When gingivitis is not treated, it can advance to “periodontitis” (which means “inflammation around the tooth”).
      Risk Factors
      • Need another reason to quit smoking? Smoking is one of the most significant risk factors associated with the development of gum disease.
      • People with diabetes are at higher risk for developing infections, including gum disease.
      • There are hundreds of prescription and over the counter medications that can reduce the flow of saliva, which has a protective effect on the mouth.
      • Diseases such as AIDS and its treatments can also negatively affect the health of gums, as can treatments for cancer.
      • And some medicines can cause abnormal overgrowth of the gum tissue; this can make it difficult to keep teeth and gums clean.
      • Without enough saliva, the mouth is vulnerable to infections such as gum disease.
      • Some people are more prone to severe gum disease than others.
      • Additionally, smoking can lower the chances for successful treatment.
      • These changes can make gums more sensitive and make it easier for gingivitis to develop.
      Who gets gum disease?
      Although teenagers rarely develop periodontitis, they can develop gingivitis, the milder form of gum disease. Most commonly, gum disease develops when plaque is allowed to build up along and under the gum line. People usually don’t show signs of gum disease until they are in their 30s or 40s.
      How do I know if I have gum disease?
      Symptoms of gum disease include:
      • Bad breath that won’t go away
      • Red or swollen gums
      • Tender or bleeding gums
      • Painful chewing
      • Loose teeth
      • Sensitive teeth
      • Receding gums or longer appearing teeth
      Any of these symptoms may be a sign of a serious problem, which should be checked by a dentist.
      • Ask about your medical history to identify underlying conditions or risk factors (such as smoking) that may contribute to gum disease.
      • Examine your gums and note any signs of inflammation.
      • Use a tiny ruler called a “probe” to check for and measure any pockets. In a healthy mouth, the depth of these pockets is usually between 1 and 3 millimeters. This test for pocket depth is usually painless.
      Your Dentist might:
      • Take an x-ray to see whether there is any bone loss.
      • Refer you to a periodontist. Periodontists are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of gum disease and may provide you with treatment options that are not offered by your dentist.
      How is gum disease treated?
      The doctor may also suggest changing certain behaviors, such as quitting smoking, as a way to improve treatment outcome. Any type of treatment requires that the patient keep up good daily care at home. The number and types of treatment will vary, depending on the extent of the gum disease.
      Deep Cleaning
      The dentist, periodontist, or dental hygienist removes the plaque through a deep-cleaning method called scaling and root planing. Root planing gets rid of rough spots on the tooth root where the germs gather, and helps remove bacteria that contribute to the disease.
      Long-term studies are needed to find out if using medications reduces the need for surgery and whether they are effective over a long period of time.
      Surgical treatments
      Dental Pocket. A dentist or periodontist may perform flap surgery to remove tartar deposits in deep pockets or to reduce the periodontal pocket and make it easier for the patient, dentist, and hygienist to keep the area clean.
      Bone and Tissue Grafts. In addition to flap surgery, your periodontist or dentist may suggest procedures to help regenerate any bone or gum tissue lost to periodontitis. In cases where gum tissue has been lost, your dentist or periodontist may suggest a soft tissue graft, in which synthetic material or tissue taken from another area of your mouth is used to cover exposed tooth roots.
      How can I keep my teeth and gums healthy?
      • Brush your teeth twice a day (with a fluoride toothpaste).
      • Floss regularly to remove plaque from between teeth. Or use a device such as a special brush or wooden or plastic pick recommended by a dental professional.
      • Visit the dentist routinely for a check-up and professional cleaning.
      • Don’t smoke

      Can gum disease cause health problems beyond the mouth?
      In some studies, researchers have observed that people with gum disease (when compared to people without gum disease) were more likely to develop heart disease or have difficulty controlling blood sugar.

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