February is National Gum Disease Awareness Month. At Perfect Smiles Dentistry in Everett, Washington, we’re pleased to join oral health care experts across the United States in this national observance.
We focus on healthy smiles every day, and we want you to take care of your gums all year. That said, we’re using this month to increase awareness and provide education regarding the dangers associated with gum disease and what it can mean for your smile and overall health.
What are the stages of gum disease
Gum disease starts slowly and builds over time. Like most other health concerns, the earlier you catch gum disease, the easier it is to treat. As gum disease progresses, treatments can become more intense and time-consuming, and the risks to your overall health can increase.
The first stage in gum disease is gingivitis. With gingivitis, your gums become inflamed due to plaque buildup on your teeth. Plaque is a soft, sticky residue that makes a perfect home for bacteria. If plaque stays on your teeth too long, it can eventually harden into tartar. Tartar is a hard, porous substance that’s filled with bacteria and is only removable with special dental tools.
Symptoms of gingivitis include redness, irritation, and puffiness in your gums. If you have mild to moderate gingivitis, your gums may also bleed when you brush.
Without treatment, gingivitis can evolve into periodontitis. With periodontitis, gum irritation, swelling, and redness continue as spaces develop between your teeth and gums. This can allow debris and bacteria to slip in below your gumline. If bacteria gets a foothold below your gumline, this can lead to infections that can eat away at bony tissue in your teeth and jaw. Periodontitis can become quite painful as it advances, and it is the most common cause of tooth loss in adults.
How is gum disease linked to other medical conditions?
Like your skin, your gums are designed to form a protective barrier to help keep bacteria from invading your system. When this barrier fails due to gum disease, the infection and your body’s immune response to the infection can lead to the narrowing of blood vessels. This, in turn, can lead to:
- Worsening of diabetes
- Heart disease
- Increased risk of respiratory infections, such as pneumonia
Research also shows potential links between gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis, certain cancers, premature births, and low birth weights.
What is the treatment for gum disease?
Treatments are designed based on the stage of gum disease you’re experiencing. The most effective strategy, of course, is preventing gum disease in the first place.
Preventive care includes brushing and flossing daily as well as routine dental exams. During your dental exam, we will assess your gum health and clean your teeth. If we notice signs of gingivitis, which is typically reversible with early care, we may recommend mouth rinses and more frequent checkups until we’re sure the gingivitis has resolved.
If your gum disease has progressed, you may need medication to fight the infection. We may also include scaling and root planing in your treatment strategy. With scaling, we scrape away the plaque and tartar above and below your gumline. With root planing, we smooth the surfaces of your roots, which can help your gums reattach to your teeth.
With advanced periodontitis, you may also need surgery to repair your gums as well as treatments to restore lost bone and replace missing teeth.
If you have gum disease, or if you’d like to prevent getting it, book an appointment online or over the phone with Perfect Smiles Dentistry today.