Gum disease is a chronic infection of the mouth. In gum disease, bacteria colonize the area between your teeth and gums, hollowing out a living space for themselves. It’s the leading cause of tooth loss among adults in the US, and it’s also associated with many serious health effects in your body. Gum disease has been associated with diabetes, heart disease, stroke, autoimmune disorders, and several forms of cancer.
Fortunately, it is generally preventable and treatable. To learn more about gum disease treatment in Harriman, please call (845) 783-6466 today for an appointment at Harriman Family Dental.
What Is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is when bacteria living in your mouth establish colonies on your gums and in the space between your teeth and gums. Gum disease bacteria, like the bacteria that cause cavities, excrete compounds that can damage your gums, creating deep pits between your teeth and gums. This creates more space for bacteria, which then cause more damage to your gums. Your gums may begin to visible recede.
There are two common types of gum disease. Gingivitis is a minor form, characterized by red, swollen, or bleeding gums.
Periodontitis is a more serious form, which can cause loose teeth, tooth loss, and more serious health problems.
Gum disease is also caused by your body’s immune response. Sometimes the extent of gum infection triggers a major immune response from the body. The body institutes a destructive response to try to eliminate the infection. Your immune response can destroy as much or more bone than the oral bacteria causing the infection. Your body’s immune response and your susceptibility to gum disease is influenced by your genes. Many people have gingivitis for years and never see it progress to periodontitis. Others may see gingivitis progress rapidly to periodontitis.
Symptoms can be subtle at first, and hard to detect. Some symptoms include:
- Red gums
- Swollen gums
- Bleeding gums
- Sensitive gums
- Persistent bad breath
- Painful chewing or food stuck between teeth and gums
- Loose teeth
- Tooth sensitivity
- Receding gums (your teeth look longer)
Many people think that bleeding gums when brushing teeth or flossing is normal, but it’s a sign of gum disease (or else it’s a sign that you’re brushing and flossing too hard). Your gums should not be harmed by your oral hygiene routine, any more than chewing or drinking should cause sensitivity.
Bad breath that lasts no matter what you eat and doesn’t improve with toothbrushing and flossing is likely related to a mouth infection, such as gum disease or an infected tooth.
Remember, your teeth don’t keep growing throughout your life. If your teeth seem to be getting longer as you get older, it’s likely due to receding gums.
How It Harms Your Health
Gum disease is dangerous not just to your teeth, but to your overall health. Diabetes can increase your risk of gum disease, but it can also make it harder for you to control your blood sugar level.
Bacteria can be inhaled and can increase your risk of pneumonia. The bacteria can enter your bloodstream and be carried to your heart. They can infect your heart, which can lead to heart failure. They can also accumulate in your arteries, contributing to arterial plaque that can break off and travel to the brain, causing stroke.
It can trigger an excessive immune response that can contribute to your risk of autoimmune disorders. In particular, gum disease has been linked to rheumatoid arthritis, in which your immune system attacks your joints.
It has been linked to several types of cancer. Oral cancer and esophageal cancer, of course, but also other cancers throughout the body. Lung cancer, breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, and colorectal cancer have all been linked to gum disease. It might contribute to cancer because it triggers systemic inflammation. Some studies have also shown that some oral bacteria can shut off your body’s ability to recognize and eliminate cancer cells, allowing cancer to grow uncontrolled by your immune system.
Treatment depends on the level of your gum disease. For minor cases, we might recommend changes to your oral hygiene, such as more flossing, more brushing, use of an over-the-counter or prescription rinse, and possible changes in your hygiene techniques.
For more serious gum disease, we might prescribe certain treatments or we may want to perform treatments in our office. A common treatment for gum disease is root scaling and planing. We will remove bacteria from the pockets around your teeth, and smooth your teeth to eliminate areas where oral bacteria can shelter.
For serious cases, we may refer you for surgical treatment.