When teeth are affected by bacterial infections we are said to have cavities but what happens when our gums are affected by the same thing? When the gums are affected by a bacterial infection, it is called one of two things: Gum disease or periodontal disease. Gum disease is a term used to describe the early and treatable stages of periodontal disease. When the infection becomes severe in the later stages we tend to refer to it as periodontal disease.
By understanding the differences between these two issues and how to prevent them we hope to educate our patients in such a way that they can stay free of gum disease.
Gum Disease – Early Stage
Gum disease is an interesting affliction. As mentioned above, gum disease is a bacterial infection of the gums. The same bacteria that cause cavities and other issues within the mouth is responsible for infecting the gums, but how does it do so? When it’s allowed to buildup on teeth in the form of plaque and tartar it will start to have constant contact with the gums. When this bacterium has constant contact with the gums, it will irritate and infect them.
Gum disease is a unique infection in that it doesn’t tend to manifest itself by being bothersome to the patient. Most infections are notable in their ability to cause discomfort, but not gum disease. Instead, it manifests as swollen and red gums that bleed easily on contact with brushing or flossing. A normal and healthy set of gums should be able to be brushed and flossed with no outward signs of irritation.
The good news about gum disease is that it can be reversed. If you come to our practice and we diagnose you with gum disease, all is not lost! With great oral hygiene and lots of attention to detail, we can help you to recover from gum disease.
Periodontal Disease – Late Stage
When the infection becomes so chronic that it can no longer be eradicated it is referred to as periodontal disease. Periodontal disease (AKA periodontitis) is commonly associated with bone and soft tissue loss/destruction. When enough of these supporting structures are lost the teeth can begin to loosen and will eventually be lost. There are a few procedures that we can offer to rebuild lost bone and soft tissue.
Periodontitis can be extremely aggressive and destructive and is frequently linked with other diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. All efforts should be made to prevent this disease.
By brushing for two minutes after breakfast and before bed, flossing at least once a day, and rinsing with water after meals, your chances of preventing these maladies are very high. It is important to combine these oral hygiene routines with regular visits to our office for checkups and cleanings. During these visits, we have a chance to give your mouth a thorough cleaning. We also make you aware of any issues that we find, so if we notice the beginning stages of gum disease, we can let you know and you can take steps to reverse the effects and squash the infection.