Trips to the dentist can seem unnecessary, but regular exams and cleanings are important for preventing dental problems. Red, puffy gums can be a sign of gum disease, a severe condition that can lead to tooth loss or other complications.
Gum disease can lead to bone loss if left untreated, making good oral hygiene essential for protecting your health.
What Is Gum Disease?
Gum disease, also known as periodontitis, is an infection of your gums. It occurs when bacteria mix with leftover food particles in your mouth, turning into plaque that slowly damages your teeth. While gum disease can lead to severe damage, it’s typically preventable with good oral hygiene.
The symptoms of gum disease contrast with the pale pink look of healthy gums. These symptoms include:
- Swollen gums
- Puffy gums
- Pink stains on your toothbrush after brushing
- Tender gums
- Gums that bleed when touched
- Pain when chewing
- Gums that recede
- Bad breath
- Loose teeth
- Pus between the teeth and gums
- Gaps developing between your teeth
Gum Disease Risk Factors
While gum disease commonly occurs due to poor hygiene, other factors can increase your risk of this disease.
These factors include:
- Cannabis use
- Hormonal changes
- Frequent smoking or chewing tobacco use
- Poor diet
- Certain medical conditions
- Reduced immune function
What Causes Gum Disease?
The cause of gum disease is typically poor oral hygiene. Forgoing your nightly brushing and flossing can have consequences if you aren’t careful.
The early beginnings of gum disease occur when plaque develops. Gum disease progresses in several steps:
- Plaque develops: You develop plaque when bacteria mix with food particles left in your mouth, turning into a clear, sticky coating on the teeth. If not removed with regular brushing, plaque can harden.
- Plaque turns into calculus: Calculus, or tartar, is hardened plaque that you can’t remove with regular brushing. It forms on the tooth and root, leading to inflammation that results in erosion of bone around the teeth.
- Gingivitis: Think of gingivitis as the lite-version of gum disease, occurring when plaque inflames and irritates your gums. If left untreated, this condition can worsen.
- Gum disease occurs: Gum disease develops when continued inflammation causes infection between your teeth and gums, called pockets. Bacteria, plaque, and calculus fill these pockets. As gum disease worsens, it can lead to tooth loss and other complications.
Does Gum Disease Cause Bone Loss?
Gum disease can lead to bone loss in your jaw if left unaddressed. This damage occurs as bacteria dig deeper into your gums. This bone loss typically occurs in the moderate stage of gum disease, and you’ll begin to lose your teeth as it enters the advanced stage.
How Long Does Gum Disease Take to Cause Bone Loss?
The timeline for gum disease can vary, but it takes a few weeks to progress to the severe stages. Tartar typically hardens within 24 to 72 hours of plaque formation. If this tartar isn’t dealt with, it can lead to gingivitis.
If gingivitis is left untreated, it can lead to gum disease. It’s better to deal with gingivitis as early as possible to prevent further damage to your teeth and gums.
How Can You Treat Gum Disease?
Treating gum disease depends on the severity of your condition. Early-stage gum disease can be treated with help from your dentist. Some people can even reverse their symptoms with improved oral hygiene, such as daily brushing and flossing.
Some possible gum disease treatments include:
- Scaling and root planning: Scaling helps remove tartar and plaque from your teeth, and root planning helps smooth the roots of the teeth to prevent future plaque buildup.
- Antibiotics: Antibiotics can help prevent your infection from worsening. Your dentist might recommend a mouth rinse or other form of antibiotics to treat your condition.
- Flap surgery: Serious cases of gum disease may require surgery. Your doctor makes tiny cuts into the gums to expose the roots of your teeth and clean the affected area.
Tips to Prevent Gum Disease
Taking care of your teeth and gums is the best way to prevent gum disease. While regular brushing and flossing are important, dental health requires more than at-home care.
You can protect your oral health in several ways, including:
- Daily flossing
- Regular dental visits
- Effective brushing twice a day
- Not smoking
Book Your Next Dental Exam & Cleaning
Your dentist plays an essential role in your oral health. Exams and cleanings are as important as daily brushing and flossing. Don’t take your teeth and gums for granted—gum disease can lead to tooth and bone loss if left untreated.
Contact Riverwalk Dental when it’s time for your next dental exam and cleaning.