Are you concerned you have gum disease? It’s a common problem, affecting an estimated 64 million American adults. It’s estimated that a large portion of those cases are undiagnosed, because gum disease can be difficult for a person without a dental background to identify the symptoms.
Knowledge is power, and that’s especially true when it comes to your teeth and oral health. Providing awareness of the symptoms (and the consequences) of oral disease is one of the easiest things our practice can do to help eliminate common dental problems for our patients in our hometown of Edmund, OK, and anyone else we can reach online! We’re passionate in our belief that with the right information and habits (with regular help from your dentist), anyone can have a beautiful, healthy smile.
In our last post, we talked about plaque, the cause of gum disease. Today, we’ll dig into the two types of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontitis.
Understanding the Inflammatory Response
Before we get into the specifics of each type of gum disease, you need to understand a little something about the inflammation response, one of your body’s most powerful weapons in the fight against infection. A common misconception that many people have is thinking that gingivitis and periodontitis are what we call the infecting bacteria. They aren’t; they’re different degrees of inflammation.
If you’ve ever had a bug bite, the redness, swelling, itching and other discomfort you experienced is the inflammation response. When an area of your body is inflamed, several of your body’s systems work together to eradicate an infection in that area. The inflammation response is a very effective weapon, but it’s so powerful your body can’t handle it for very long. If the infection is well-established (as in gum disease), the inflammation response will work for too long and start to destroy the body’s own tissues. This is called chronic inflammation. In fact, recent medical research has connected chronic inflammation to a number of serious physical ailments and problems.
Gingivitis is the less intense type of gum disease; in fact, it’s often referred to as the “first stage” of gum disease, because untreated gingivitis will eventually develop into periodontitis. The good news here is that if gingivitis is caught before it turns into periodontitis, it can be easily reversed with help from your dentist and by developing good oral health habits at home. Brush, floss, and rinse twice a day, and make and keep your dental appointments, at least twice a year! That’s really all it takes to control and prevent gingivitis.
The symptoms of gingivitis are fairly easy to recognize on your own. Are your gums red or swollen? Do they seem to bleed easily (while you’re brushing or flossing)? If so, you probably have gingivitis, and you need to make the first move before it gets worse. Your dentist can help, so you should make a call to our office immediately to get it taken care of, because if you don’t, it will become periodontitis. That is much more difficult to reverse and is much more serious.
When gingivitis goes unaddressed, periodontitis is the result. In periodontitis, plaque has grown deep under the gum line, triggering the inflammation response. Your gums will become irritated (though you won’t necessarily feel it) and soon they’ll actually pull away from the teeth. This creates spaces called “pockets”. Pockets are prime bacterial real estate, and bacteria crowd into them in huge numbers. They eat, reproduce, and create more and more of the acidic soup that is their waste. As a result, the pockets get deeper and deeper, causing more inflammation.
If left long enough, the tissues and bone that hold your teeth in place will start to dissolve and be destroyed. Eventually, this will lead to tooth loss. Your teeth will either fall out or they’ll need to be extracted, and neither option is much of a picnic.
Gum Disease Is Treatable, But You Have To Take Action Now!
If you think you might have gingivitis, we encourage you to make an appointment with us as soon as possible. We offer comprehensive gum disease treatment for our patients. Remember: gingivitis is your alert system, letting you know that the much more serious periodontitis is just around the corner (if you fail to act fast).
Contact My Santa Fe Dental now! Make an appointment with us online, or call our office at 405-757-2030.