Understanding Gum Disease: Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention

Periodontal disease, or gum disease, commonly affects the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth. 

According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 47.2% of adults aged 30 years and older have some form of gum disease. 

Despite its prevalence, many people are unaware of the seriousness of gum disease and its adverse effects on a person’s health. 

This blog post explores the causes, symptoms, and prevention strategies for gum disease. 

What Are the Causes of Gum Disease?

Gum disease typically starts with plaque buildup, a sticky film of bacteria that forms on a person’s teeth. 

When plaque isn’t removed through proper oral hygiene techniques, it hardens into tartar that can only be removed by a dentist. 

Plaque and tartar bacteria can irritate the gums and lead to inflammation and the onset of gum disease. 

Several factors can increase the risk of gum disease, including:

  • Poor oral hygiene habits
  • Hormonal changes
  • Diabetes
  • Certain medications
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Weakened immune system 

Understanding the causes of gum disease can help you take proactive measures to prevent it.

Common Symptoms of Gum Disease

Gum disease can present itself in several ways, and the best way to combat it is through early detection. 

Here are six warning signs to keep an eye on:

Swollen or tender gums—Healthy gums should be pink and firm. Any signs of swelling or tenderness can be a sign of gum inflammation. 

Bleeding gums —Bleeding of the gums during brushing or flossing is an early sign that shouldn’t be ignored. 

Bad Breath—With gum disease comes bacteria, and this bacteria can lead to chronic bad breath.

Loose/shifting teeth—Gum disease in the advanced stages can damage the bone and tissue that support the teeth, causing them to become loose and shift. 

Pain while chewing—Discomfort or pain while eating is a common sign of gum disease. 

Stages of Gum Disease

Gum disease progresses in stages and typically starts with:

Gingivitis — This is characterized by bleeding and gum inflammation. At this point, it can be reversed with improved oral hygiene efforts and professional dental care. 

Periodontitis — When gingivitis isn’t treated, it turns into periodontitis.  Inflammation spreads below the gum lines and damages the supporting bones and tissue. If not treated, periodontitis can lead to irreversible damage. 

Advanced periodontitis—In the most severe cases, periodontitis progresses to advanced periodontitis, where substantial bone loss occurs, leading to tooth loosening and shifting. Intensive dental care and surgery are common to treat this advanced stage of gum disease.

Is Gum Disease Reversible?

Gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease, is reversible with proper treatment and oral hygiene. Advanced stages like periodontitis, on the other hand, may not be fully reversible. 

However, proper treatment and management can slow or even halt the progression and prevent further damage to the gums and supporting bones and tissue. 

Gum Disease Treatment

Treatment for gum disease requires a commitment to consistency and typically involves:

  • Professional dental intervention is needed to remove plaque and tartar buildup. 
  • At-home oral hygiene practices include brushing twice daily, flossing daily, and using antimicrobial mouthwash. 

In more advanced cases, treatment may include:

  • Scaling and root planing which is a deep cleaning below the gum line. 
  • Surgery to restore gum health and prevent tooth loss. 

Orthodontist in St. Augustine and St. Johns, Florida 

Traditional braces and Invisalign straighten teeth and improve jaw positioning, positively aiding gum health. 

When a person has straight teeth, brushing and flossing is easier and reduces plaque buildup and the risk of gum disease. 

Additionally, straight teeth reduce pressure on the gums, which can, in turn, reduce inflammation and promote healthy gum tissue. 
If you have any questions or want to schedule your free consultation, contact us today!