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 that 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 usual, but they’re 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 an indication of gum disease.
When you are 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 the 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 & Family Dentistry.
How Does Gum Disease 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, problems can occur.
If the plaque on your teeth is not removed daily, it develops into tartar. This stickier buildup tends to hold onto the bacteria in spite of your best efforts at removing it. Tartar can move below the gum line, taking bacteria with it. Once inside the gum tissue, bacteria can cause inflammation and, eventually, a severe infection.
What Happens if I Ignore the Early Symptoms?
This is a simple question with a complicated answer. The development of gum disease, much like the buildup of tartar, does not happen overnight. After you first notice the tenderness, slight bleeding, and tooth sensitivity, you could go years without ever experiencing noticeable negative repercussions.
Bacteria can gradually affect your gum tissue, teeth, and jawbone, causing destruction not visible on the surface.
When discomfort occurs noticeably, your gum tissues may have deteriorated considerably, and your jawbone may be breaking down. The infection living in your gums can spread to other parts of your body, potentially causing any number of health issues.
Gum Disease Treatment
If caught early, your treatment plan could be as simple as routine cleaning and prescribing an antibiotic for you to take at home. At the next stage of advancement, the dentist may need to use 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, the dentist may need to do a more extensive cleaning of the infected pockets and reattach the tissue to your teeth. If your gums have deteriorated beyond this point, treatment includes replacing portions of them with healthy tissue from your palate or other areas of your mouth. When deterioration of the jawbone has set in, the dentist may recommend bone grafts or injecting proteins into the bone so the missing material will grow back.
When tooth loss is an issue, 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?
Regular brushing and flossing combined with twice-yearly visits to your dentist can help reduce your chances of developing gum disease considerably. If gum disease is present, we can catch it in its earliest stages where treating it is much simpler.
Contact the Washington Center for Cosmetic & Family Dentistry at 202-363-2500 to learn more about your gum disease treatment options.