What’s a leading reason for tooth loss among American adults? Is it oral injury? Is it tooth decay? Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is one of the biggest reasons why people lose teeth in the United States. Surprised? Don’t be. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta says that 50 percent of adults over the age of 30 have gum disease to one degree or other. What causes periodontal disease with those red, swollen gums, and how do Dr. Deborah Romack and Dr. Garrett Mulkey, dentists in Weatherford at Cosmetic & Family Dentistry, treat it?
Causes and Symptoms of Gum Disease
Dr. Mulkey and Dr. Romack treat all stages of gum disease–from its mildest form, gingivitis, to its more aggressive form, periodontitis. They tell patients that gum disease originates in the sticky biofilm dentists called plaque.
When not removed by brushing and flossing at home, plaque accumulates between teeth and under the gums, hardening into destructive tartar. In addition, this biofilm is loaded with bacteria which create cavities and attack gum tissue, infecting it and making it swell, bleed and recede. Left unchecked, gum disease destroys soft tissue and degrades the underlying jaw bone. Teeth loosen, drift and can actually fall out.
Some patients with gum disease notice no symptoms whatsoever. Others notice many uncomfortable signs. The professional staff at Cosmetic & Family Dentistry detect gum disease during oral examinations which include periodontal probing, a measurement of gum pocket depth. When the spaces between gums and teeth measure more than three millimeters, gum disease is confirmed as these larger spaces collect more bacteria and indicate destruction of tissue.
Signs of gum disease include:
- Red, swollen, bleeding gums
- Changes in gum color
- Persistent bad breath
- Changes in how teeth bite together or are spaced
- Changes in the fit of dentures
- Loose, drifting teeth
In addition, studies show links between gum disease and systemic health problems such as heart disease, arthritis, dementia, high blood pressure and diabetes. In other words, if your gums are bleeding, puffy and in overall bad shape, your overall well-being suffers.
Treating Gum Disease
Fortunately, expert dentists know how to stop periodontal disease and make gums healthy again. For milder gingivitis, manual tooth scaling scrapes away tartar, allowing gums to heal. For more severe periodontitis, root planing, in addition to tooth scaling, debrides root surfaces and smooths them so gum tissue reattaches. Antimicrobial medication often is instilled into gum pockets.
Of course, the best gum disease treatment is preventing it. That means twice daily brushing and flossing at home to eliminate plaque and tartar. Also, patients should come to Cosmetic & Family Dentistry every six months for oral exams and hygienic cleanings to prevent serious problems. Kids through senior adults should consume a low-carb diet high in calcium and fibrous fruits and vegetables, and everyone should hydrate themselves well.
Don’t hesitate. Your teeth and gums are so important. Contact Cosmetic & Family Dentistry to schedule your routine exam and professional cleaning, and see how beautiful and healthy your smile can be.