Gum disease - What Is It?
Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is a bacterial infection of the gums and supporting structures of the teeth. Only one or even multiple teeth may be affected and difficulties range from gum irritation (gingivitis) to severe infection (periodontitis). It is important to take care of your gums as part of general oral health care.
Gingivitis is the term used for gum inflammation owing to excessive plaque on the teeth and if you have red, swollen or bleeding gums, it is a sign you may have it. It is the earliest stage of gum disease and being common, it is easily to miss the signs indicating its presence.
Periodontitis is the more severe form of the disease. Here, the gum tissue retracts from the teeth creating pockets where additional bacteria can develop and lead to infection. Possible signs include persistently inflamed or bleeding gums, pain when chewing, poorly aligned teeth, gums that are receding or pockets between the teeth and gums, mouth sores and wobbly or sensitive teeth. This form of the disease can be devastating to your teeth and supporting bones and is the primary cause of loss of teeth. If you experience any of the signs of periodontal disease below, ensure you see your dentist as soon as possible because this form of the disease requires professional intervention.
Do you have a sharp or dull pain when chewing - what causes teeth to be sensitive?
Sensitivity is a common dental problem involving discomfort or pain in teeth occurring in response to particular substances or temperatures; for example when drinking a hot drink or when biting into an apple.
Dentin or tooth hypersensitivity is more of a discomfort than a danger although sharp or dull pain when chewing may indicate something potentially more serious such as periodontitis. The key symptoms are discomfort and/or pain when encountering extremes of temperature in drinks, food or air; it is worth highlighting to your dental practitioner if you are experiencing these so further investigation of serious causes can be eliminated.
Receding gums and sensitive teeth
In gum disease, receding, inflamed and painful gums may lead to pain or sensitivity through sugar and hot and cold foods or drinks. This occurs because in the root of the tooth is dentin which has miniscule channels that directly transmit information to the nerves inside your teeth. The dentin in the root is not protected by tooth enamel in the same way as the crown or top part of the tooth so when gums recede, it becomes exposed and alerts the nerves, resulting in a sharp or dull pain or sensitivity.
Receding gums - three main causes:
- Aggressive brushing: There is the risk of wear and tear resulting from heavy-handed brushing as it can lead to gum recession.
- Gum disease: Periodontal disease (or gingivitis in milder form) can cause gums to recede.
- Age: Gums naturally recede over time and to a certain extent is unavoidable. You can, however, treat any resulting discomfort.
Other causes of tooth pain and sensitivity when chewing include:
Erosion of enamel
Infection in the root canal
Damage to the structure of the teeth or bones supporting them
As long as they are healthy, sensitive teeth may be treated with fluorides and toothpastes designed for tooth sensitivity; your dentist can advise on the best approach to take.
Is tooth pain or sensitivity a sign of mild or more severe gum disease?
It can be difficult to distinguish and ultimately a professional opinion is necessary but the following factors may indicate an underlying problem:
Your age - periodontitis is uncommon in teenagers, although they can develop gingivitis.
Extent or severity of pain - pain on chewing may indicate that periodontal disease has progressed from gingivitis to periodontitis.
A condition of your teeth - with gingivitis, your teeth should be secure, even if gums may be inflamed but if teeth are loose, it is more likely that you have underlying (serious) gum disease.
Mouth odor: When gingivitis progresses to periodontitis, excess bacteria in your mouth causes bad breath or halitosis.
What can you do to prevent your teeth being sensitive?
Gum disease needs to be arrested before more serious damage occurs; this could include cavities, tooth loss, and systemic health problems.
Toothpaste containing potassium nitrate is recommended for relieving tooth sensitivity: this chemical has been shown in studies to be quick and effective in counteracting sensitivity.
In addition to desensitizing toothpaste, the following tips may be of assistance:
Avoiding very acidic foods.
Using a mouthwash containing fluoride daily.
Avoiding bruxism (teeth grinding), perhaps through the use of a mouth guard.