Preserving or achieving sound oral health involves more than simply caring for your teeth; it also involves caring for your gums. You may not realize this, but your gums constitute a large part of your mouth. Moreover, problems affecting your gums can be serious, especially if they go undiagnosed and untreated. Advanced periodontal (gum) disease can lead to tooth loss if it is not properly addressed. In fact, in the United States, gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.
Thankfully, Dr. Martens and her team of hygienists know what to look out for when evaluating your dental health and can provide information about how to prevent and treat periodontal disease before it advances too far. The only catch is that you have to visit her office for your routine dental exams and cleanings so that they can monitor your oral health and let you know as soon as possible if they detect a potential problem with your gums. Here, Dr. Martens discusses the basics of periodontal disease, including what causes it and symptoms to watch out for.
The early stage of periodontitis, or periodontal disease, is called gingivitis. Gingivitis (gum inflammation) is caused by bacteria in plaque buildup around the teeth. This leads to red, swollen gums that may bleed when brushing the teeth.
While gingivitis is characterized by swollen, irritated gums, this early stage of periodontal disease does not necessarily affect the teeth, which are still implanted firmly in the gums. Gingivitis does not cause irreversible tissue damage or bone loss.
However, if left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis.
In patients with periodontitis, the inside layer of gum tissue and bone separate from the teeth, forming pockets. Plaque and other debris can accumulate in these pockets and continue to grow beneath the gum line.
A healthy immune system will fight the bacteria in the plaque buildup. Nonetheless, both the body’s bacteria-fighting enzymes and toxins generated by the bacteria in the plaque will eventually destroy the connective tissue and bone that anchors the teeth in position. As periodontitis advances, teeth become loose and fall out, leading to tooth loss.
Causes of Periodontal Disease
Periodontal disease is primarily caused by plaque buildup, but other factors can contribute to the problem as well, including:
- Hormonal fluctuations, such as the ones that occur during pregnancy, menopause, puberty and menstruation, making gums more sensitive and thus more susceptible to gingivitis
- Diseases that interfere with the immune system, such as HIV or cancer
- Other diseases, including diabetes, which affects the body’s ability to use blood sugar and thereby increases a diabetic person’s risk of developing infections, including cavities and gum disease
- Certain medications that limit the flow of saliva, which helps protect the teeth and gums, or that cause irregular gum tissue growth
- Smoking and other bad habits that make it difficult for the gum tissue to repair itself
- Poor oral hygiene practices — including not brushing or flossing properly each day — which can contribute to gingivitis
- A family history of periodontal or dental disease
What to Do If You Have Swollen, Irritated Gums
If you have swollen, red gums that bleed when you brush your teeth or if you are overdue for a dental checkup, contact Dr. Martens’ office. She and her team will assess your oral health and recommend a treatment plan that is appropriate for you. In some cases, this may involve seeing a specialist to care for your gums.
Dr. Martens provides personalized, concierge dental care in a boutique-style practice. She is always accepting new patients. She accepts all insurances that allow you to go anywhere for dental care and she is a Delta Dental insurance Premier provider. Her experienced front office staff are always happy to answer any insurance questions you may have. To schedule an appointment with the Waunakee dentist, contact her practice by calling (608) 849-4424 now.