Millions of Americans currently suffer from the early forms of gum disease. Unfortunately, few are even aware of the symptoms. In their beginning stages, periodontal diseases are painless, so they go ignored until their severity increases. It’s not until the condition progresses to the point of significant pain and tooth loss most people realize they need to seek help.
What Symptoms Should I Keep in Mind?
Many of the common symptoms associated with gum disease are often dismissed as normal, but they’re actually subtle hints a problem may be developing. Something as simple as bad breath that doesn’t seem to disappear after brushing, using mouthwash, or chewing gum could be a clear indication of gum disease. When you’re brushing and flossing your teeth, check for the following additional warning signs:
- Red, tender or swollen gums
- Bleeding of the gums
- Tooth sensitivity to cold water, toothpaste, or pressure from your toothbrush
- Loose teeth
Should gum disease be present, you may also notice your teeth appear longer than they once did. This is a sign of receding gums caused by deterioration of the ligaments holding your teeth in place. You may also notice pain when chewing. If you’re experiencing any of these issues, you may want to consider scheduling an appointment with us at the Washington Center for Cosmetic Dentistry.
How Does this Happen?
At any given time, your mouth is filled with bacteria. These naturally-occurring microorganisms help your saliva break down food when you eat, but they can also gather in plaque buildup on your teeth. Brushing twice daily, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash can help eliminate many of these bacteria but, without due attention to these good oral hygiene habits, a problem ensues.
If the plaque on your teeth isn’t removed daily, it develops into tartar, and this stickier buildup tends to hold onto the bacteria in spite of your best efforts at removing it. Tartar creeps below the gum line, taking all those bacteria with it. Once they’re allowed to work their way inside the gum tissue, they cause inflammation and, eventually, a serious infection.
What Happens if I Ignore the Early Symptoms?
This is a simple question with a complex answer. The development of gum disease, much like the buildup of tartar, doesn’t happen overnight. After you first notice the tenderness, slight bleeding, and tooth sensitivity, you could go years without ever experiencing noticeable negative repercussions.
You might think this gives you the green light to ignore the symptoms. The problem is, those bacteria are still at work below your gums. They eat away at your gum tissue, teeth, and even your jawbone little by little, causing destruction not visible on the surface. Once the inevitable pain becomes so unbearable you have no choice but to visit us; the damage could be extensive.
By the time pain comes into play, your gum tissues have deteriorated considerably, and your jawbone may be breaking down as well. Your teeth will probably be loose or even falling out at this point. Those bacteria were given a chance to take their toll, and your overall physical health could be suffering as a result. The infection living in your gums can spread to other parts of your body, potentially causing any number of health issues.
Can the Washington Center for Cosmetic Dentistry Help Me?
We certainly can, but the time and extent of your treatment will depend on how far your gum disease was allowed to progress. If you come to us as soon as you notice the gum tenderness and swelling, sensitive teeth and bad breath, your treatment plan could be as simple as a routine cleaning and prescribing an antibiotic for you to take at home. At the next stage of advancement, we may need to use our laser treatment to scale your teeth and clean out pockets of infection in your gums followed by a combination of antibiotics applied here at our office as well as an oral prescription.
In the event your gums have begun to pull away from your teeth, we may need to do a more extensive cleaning of those infected pockets and reattach the tissue to your teeth. If your gums have deteriorated beyond this point, we’ll probably need to replace portions of them with healthy tissue from your palate or other areas of your mouth. When deterioration of the jawbone has set in, we’re often forced to resort to bone grafts or injecting proteins into the bone so the missing material will grow back.
We can also help if tooth loss is an issue. A few missing teeth can be replaced using a partial bridge as long as the surrounding teeth are healthy and secure. If your jawbones remain strong enough, or if we’ve performed regenerative procedures to restore their strength, we may be able to replace your missing teeth with dental implants. In some cases, dentures are the most suitable solution.
Can I Prevent Gum Disease?
Everyone is vulnerable to gum disease, and some factors may be beyond your control. Regular brushing and flossing combined with twice-yearly visits to your dentist can, without a doubt, help reduce your chances of developing gum disease considerably. If it does start to develop, we can catch it in its earliest stages where treating it is much simpler. Contact the Washington Center for Cosmetic Dentistry at (202) 873-1341.