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Gum disease is among the most widespread conditions affecting people yet it remains one of the most poorly understood disease by the general public. Find out everything you wanted to know about the condition in this article.

Most people come to know that they have gum disease only after being told by their dentist. In the early to moderate stages, most people will not be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of gum disease. The lack of knowledge about gum disease is in stark contrast to tooth decay, both conditions that are almost as widely spread as each other. So, what exactly is gum disease? What leads to the development of gum disease? Does bleeding gums treatment mean the same thing as gum disease treatment?

Let us answer all these questions in detail.

What is gum disease?

The technical name for gum disease is called Periodontitis [1]. It refers to a condition that affects the supporting structures of the teeth including but not limited to the gums. The ligament, the underlying bone and the surface of the root are also included as supporting structures of the tooth.

Signs and symptoms of gum disease

The first sign of gum disease is usually bleeding from the gums. Patients may notice that their gums bleed while brushing, eating, or even on their own. Contrary to popular belief, though, bleeding gums do not indicate that gum disease has progressed to advanced levels. Bleeding gums are in fact an early sign and associated with the first stage of gum disease [2].

People suffering from gum disease may also notice that some amount of food starts to get lodged in between their teeth. This is usually due to the development of ‘pockets’ in the gums that harbor harmful bacteria [3].

Bad breath and a feeling of a roughness on the teeth are also common things observed by patients suffering from gum disease. The reason behind these two is once again the growth of harmful bacteria and the accumulation of tartar on the surface of the teeth [4].

Advanced stages of gum disease manifest clinically as teeth which start to drift apart, spaces start to appear which were absent at one time, teeth start becoming loose and may even fall out on their own [5].

If you would have noticed, there is one important symptom that is missing from gum disease. Pain. Unlike other dental diseases, gum disease is not accompanied by pain and that is possibly the reason why it is neglected by patients until it progresses to advanced levels of destruction [6].

Gum disease has two forms, chronic gum disease and aggressive gum disease. The most common kind seen is the chronic form which progresses slowly over a period of years. This form of disease starts to become apparent in the late thirties or forties and then becomes advanced over the next five to eight years. The aggressive form leads to advanced destruction as early as the late twenties or early thirties [7].

Gum disease is also responsible for the widespread notion that teeth have a use-by date after which they fall out during old age. It is now known that it was just the chronic gum disease which started to become more and more prevalent as age progresses and resulted in the loss of dentition.

What causes gum disease?

It took a surprisingly long time for science to figure out what causes gum disease but it is now definitively known that gum disease is caused by harmful bacteria that reside in our own mouths [8].

It is logical to wonder if the harmful bacteria exist in our own mouths then why don’t they affect every single person. The reason behind this is that the harmful microorganisms are only a small proportion of the total microbial population and outnumbered significantly by the health-promoting bacteria.

If, however, conditions that promote the growth of the disease-causing bacteria emerge then they quickly overpower the health-promoting microorganisms and start causing destruction. These conditions include poor oral hygiene, the presence of a systemic disease that reduces the body’s ability fight these harmful bacteria, such as diabetes or a genetic condition where the inflammatory response of the body to a small population of harmful microorganism is over-exuberant and eventually self-destructive [9]. 

Gum disease treatment

As mentioned earlier, the number of people that are aware of gum disease is abysmally low and so awareness about its treatment is understandably low as well. Patients most often go to the dentist seeking bleeding gums treatment. If the dentist finds that gum disease is at an initial stage then the only thing required to be done is a simple scaling.

For more advanced stages of gum disease, the treatment may include flap surgeries, use of bone grafts to augment the bone, as well as extraction of teeth which are beyond saving [10].

Treatment of gum disease is also not just a one-time affair but an ongoing process. Since the microorganisms responsible for causing the disease live in the mouth, it is essential for patients to be put on a recall regimen which will ensure that they don’t suffer a relapse of the problem.

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