Gum disease is caused by plaque (soft, white & sticky substance) that builds up daily on your teeth. If plaque is not removed, it can turn into hard tartar (calculus). Plaque and tartar cause gum infection (gingivitis), which shows as redness, swelling and soreness. If gum infection persists long enough it can start to break down the gum tissue and even the bone that supports the tooth. That is when we call it periodontitis.
Gum disease is the primary cause of tooth loss after the age of 35. Over ½ of adults over the age of 35 are already in the early stages of gum disease.
Symptoms of gum disease include:
- Receding Gums
- Bad breath
- Teeth moving (becoming longer or spaces appearing between teeth)
The stages of gum disease
The first stage of gum disease is known as gingivitis, which is an infection of the collar of gum that surrounds the tooth. The gums become irritated, swollen and bleed easily. This stage of gum disease is easily treated by meticulous cleaning at home and by your dentist and/or oral hygienist.
If gingivitis is left untreated it can progress to periodontitis. Persistent gingivitis breaks the attachment between tooth and gum, allowing the infection to penetrate deeper and to erode the jaw bone which supports the tooth. This leaves pockets that are too deep to clean. If left untreated, these pockets will deepen, more jawbone will be lost, and eventually, teeth can become loose and may have to be removed. Despite the destructive nature of this process, there may only be mild symptoms, even at a later stage.
Like all chronic diseases, gum disease does not go away. It will not get better by itself. As the condition worsens, it is harder to treat successfully. That is why it is best to start treatment as soon as possible.
A periodontist can carry out regular maintenance appointments to keep the condition under control and prevent it from causing further damage on the gums and supporting bone.