Gum disease is caused by bacteria that harm not only the gums surrounding a tooth, but also the connective tissues and bone structure beneath the gums. When these tissues and bone are extensively damaged, tooth loss is the result. In fact, gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss amongst adults.
Gum disease is most effectively and conveniently treated in its earliest stages. An early diagnosis of gum disease can mean the difference between non-surgical treatment and invasive gum surgery. There are a number of symptoms of gum disease which, if present, should be immediately addressed by a dentist or periodontist. Common symptoms of gum disease include:
- Bleeding gums
- Bad breath
- Sensitive, swollen, or red gums
- Loose teeth
- Increased space between teeth
- The formation of pus between teeth
- Mouth sores
Though nearly 75 percent of adults suffer from some form of gum disease, this affliction is easily prevented. The leading cause of gum disease is improper oral hygiene: plaque must be removed daily through thorough brushing and flossing, and a deep cleaning should be performed by a dentist every six months. Hormonal changes, such as those experienced during pregnancy, puberty, and menopause can affect the chemical balance in the mouth and encourage the growth of disease-causing bacteria. Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and kidney disease, as well as certain medications, can also lead to gum disease.
Early stage gum disease is known as gingivitis. This is often treatable with non-surgical treatment such as prescription mouthwash, tooth scaling, and root planning, all of which help to clean the affected tooth root surface. Once gum disease advances, however, gum surgery is often the only viable treatment option.