Gum Disease - Symptoms, Prevention & Treatment
What are the causes of periodontal disease?
The main cause of periodontal disease is dental plaque. Dental plaque is the sticky, whitish film that forms on teeth. If not removed during daily oral care, plaque will turn into a hard deposit known as tartar over time. Tartar is very hard and can only be removed with professional cleaning. The presence of tartar below the gums onto the roots of teeth makes plaque removal more difficult. Periodontal bacteria that reside in plaque accumulated between the teeth and gums produce toxins that irritate the gums and cause infection. In more advanced stages, the toxins destroy the tissues around the teeth, including the bone supporting them.
How do I prevent periodontal disease?
- Daily oral care including proper brushing and interdental cleaning are essential to prevent dental plaque accumulation.
- Regular dental visits for professional cleaning twice a year or as deemed appropriate by the dentist based on your gum condition. Patients with gum disease and have been treated may require a more frequent professional dental visit.
How is gum disease treated?
The goal of treatment is to arrest the progression of the disease, thus returning teeth and gums to good oral health and maintaining them.
There are several phases involved in gum treatment:
Initial Periodontal Therapy (Non-Surgical)
Depending on the severity of your periodontal disease, the treatment rendered may vary. In general, treatment will include scaling, root planning and polishing to remove plaque, calculus and infection-causing bacteria from below the gum line. The procedure may be performed under local anaesthesia over a few sessions, depending on the severity of your gum condition. An essential part of the treatment will also include oral hygiene instructions on how to brush and clean your teeth properly.
Following a complete full mouth treatment, you will be seen for a re-examination of your gum condition in 2 months’ time, to establish the results achieved and plan for further treatment (i.e. surgical treatment), if required.
Reconstructive Therapy (Surgical)
This may be performed after initial periodontal therapy if there are persistent deep pockets and loss of supporting bone. Not all patients will require this phase of treatment, and not all patients are suitable as well.
Supportive Periodontal Therapy
Once the disease is under control, you will be seen for professional maintenance on a regular basis. This phase of treatment is known as supportive periodontal therapy. Your gum health will be monitored at regular intervals to ensure your infection stays under control. At each visit, your mouth is examined, tartar and plaque are professionally removed as well. Gum disease is a chronic disease, thus without regular careful maintenance, the disease may recur.
What factors may contribute to gum disease?
- Smoking/tobacco use
- Diabetes and systemic diseases
- Hormonal changes, like during pregnancy
- Some medications, like anti-depressants, anti-convulsion, some heart medications, and medications that prevent organ transplant rejection
How to know if you have gum disease and what to do about it?
Look out for common signs of gum disease:
- Bleeding gums during brushing/ flossing
- Red, swollen or tender gums
- Gum abscesses (boils)
- Loose teeth
- Spacings between teeth over time
- Longer looking teeth over time, with gums receding away
- A change in the way your teeth fit together
- Persistent bad breath
- Discomfort like dull ache or itchiness on the gums
What to do if you experience one or more of the signs stated above?
- Arrange for a dental consultation with a gum specialist (periodontist)
- Ensure good oral hygiene habits