What is gum disease?

Gum disease is an inflammation of the gums that can spread to the jaw bone and the supporting tissue around the teeth. It is caused by the bacteria of the plaque - a sticky, living tooth accretion from bacteria that is continually forming on the teeth. If plaque is not daily removed by thoroughly brushing the teeth and using dental floss and interproximal brushes, the plaque may become very thick and grow freely. The bacteria not only infect your teeth and your gums but possibly also the tissue of the periodontium (jaw bone and connective tissue) where the teeth are anchored. This may cause the teeth to loosen and fall out or they have to be removed by the dentist.

There are three stages of gum disease:

  • Gingivitis: This is the earliest stage of gum disease, an inflammation of the gums due to plaque deposits along the gumline. If plaque is not daily removed by brushing and use of dental floss, it produces toxins that attack the gum tissue which may lead to gingivitis. It is possible that bleeding occurs while brushing und cleaning the teeth with dental floss, tooth picks or tooth brushes. This is an alarm signal that has to be taken seriously. Gum bleeding is not caused by incorrect or too forceful brushing. In this early stage of gum disease, the damage may be completely repaired as the bone and the connective tissue holding the tooth in place are not yet affected.
     
  • Periodontitis: In this stage, both the bone supporting the tooth and the connective tissue are irreversibly damaged. Between the gums and the tooth or root surface, gum pockets ranging from 4 to 12 mm in depth may have formed where bacteria can advance unimpeded. Proper dental treatment and improved oral hygiene at home usually help to contain the inflammation and avoid further damage.
     
  • If teeth are not treated effectively, the jaw bone disintegrates, the teeth begin to migrate, and they wobble and may fall out or have to be removed.
     

How do I know that I suffer from gum disease?

Gum disease may occur at any age; however, it is more frequent in adults. If it is diagnosed at an early stage, gum disease may be cured. Consult your dentist, if you notice one of the following symptoms:

  • The gums are red, swollen or sensitive.
  • The gums bleed during flossing or brushing.
  • The teeth appear longer because the gumline has receded.
  • The gums have moved in relation to the tooth.
  • The position of the teeth in the jawbone has changed.
  • Puss emanates from the interproximal embrasures and your gums.
  • Lasting bad breath or an unpleasant taste in your mouth.
     

How is gum disease treated?

  • The early stages of gingivitis may be healed by proper tooth brushing and the use of dental floss, interdental brushes, mouth rinses etc. Proper oral hygiene prevents plaque from becoming too thick. Regular professional teeth cleaning is the most effective complementary measure and the only way to completely remove all plaque and calculus above the gum line.
     
  • In case of periodontitis, teeth cleaning above the gum line is not sufficient as deep gum pockets have now developed. A periodontal therapy is required where all root surfaces are completely freed from plaque (scaling) and smoothed (planing). This procedure may solely be performed by a dentist or dental hygienist.

Through regular monitoring examinations, the early stages of gum disease can be treated before a more serious condition develops.


  Healthy gums
Healthy gums are firm and do not bleed. They fit tightly around the teeth.
 
  Gingivitis
The gums are slightly inflamed and may be red or swollen; bleeding may occur during brushing.
 
  Periodontitis
The gums begin to loosen and recede from the teeth. This allows plaque to reach the roots, the connective tissue and the bones.
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