Early Signs of Gum Disease & Why You Should Pay Attention
Gum disease is the main cause of premature tooth loss in adults, causing more problems than cavities and decay combined — and Fairbanks, Alaska is no exception. It is also a very common condition, but unfortunately one that often goes either undetected or untreated. In the early stages it is an easy problem to fix, but left to progress it can cause real damage to teeth roots, and even, in advanced cases, the jawbone itself. Knowing what to look for will help you spot the signs of the condition before it advances to the stage where tooth loss is inevitable.
What Causes Gum Disease?
Everyone’s mouth is full of bacteria, no matter how carefully you floss and brush, and even antibacterial mouthwash only has a temporary effect in reducing their number. Under normal circumstances, these bacteria cause no problems, but if their levels grow too high they can cause inflammation of the gums, and even bleeding. This bleeding is often the earliest sign of trouble, usually first noticed when brushing, flossing, or eating certain foods such as apples.
The medical term for this inflammation is gingivitis, and effective treatment requires a visit to the dentist for a thorough cleaning of your teeth and gums to remove the excess bacteria. From then on, paying a little extra attention to your brushing and flossing routine will help to stop the problem returning, along with using a high-quality, dentist-approved mouthwash.
Without treatment, gingivitis can quickly progress to the stage where more visible swelling is accompanied by soreness and frequent bleeding, usually coupled with bad breath and a constant unpleasant taste in the mouth.
These symptoms are certainly disagreeable, but not particularly harmful, and they can usually be reversed completely with proper treatment and an improvement in dental hygiene habits. However, left to its own devices, gingivitis can escalate into an altogether more serious condition.
If the bacteria that cause gingivitis are allowed to take a firmer hold and spread deeper into the gums, the result is a condition called periodontal disease or periodontitis. This is a potentially serious problem that can lead to tooth loss and even damage to the jaw. From the outside, periodontitis looks like a severe case of gingivitis, but instead of the gums being simply inflamed, they also shrink back into the jaw leaving increasing amounts of your teeth exposed. During this process, empty pockets can also form between the gums and teeth, which can quickly become infected, damaging the affected teeth along with their roots and connective tissues. The outward signs of this may include a discharge of pus, along with blisters, abscesses, and noticeably loose teeth.
In serious cases, the infection can spread to the bone, requiring more comprehensive treatment including a procedure known as root planing. This is a deep-cleaning of bacteria from both above and below the gum line, usually carried out under a local anesthetic and causing some pain and discomfort for a few days. Occasionally, a procedure called flap surgery may be required. This is a rather unpleasant treatment which involves cutting the gums to allow access to the dental roots for cleaning, before stitching them closed again.
Don’t Ignore the Signs
When it comes to dental problems, toothache will usually prompt a quick visit to the dentist to relieve the pain, but the symptoms of gum disease are more easily ignored. This is a mistake, as gum disease is easily treated in its mild, early form, but the longer it’s left to develop the more drastic the treatment will need to be. Regular, routine visits to your dentist will pick up the problem before it progresses, but if you spot any warning signs between visits, then don’t delay in making an appointment for a check up. Contact us today for more information.