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WHAT IS GUM DISEASE?

Article by Dr. Sameh Atallah Duaibis - Specialist Dentist & Implantologist DDS, MFDRCSI, MSc Allied Medical Center, Dubai, UAE

When you think about dental health, the focus is primarily on preventing cavities in your teeth. Nevertheless, paying attention to your gums is essential as gums play a major role in both your dental health and overall well-being.

Gingiva (gums) is part of the soft tissue lining of the mouth. They surround the teeth and provide a seal around them. The gums are made of firm, pink tissue that covers your jawbones which helps resist the friction of food passing over them.

The condition of diseased inflamed gums is termed “Gingivitis” (fig.1).


Fig.1 A typical case of gingivitis, note the red swollen gums due to poor oral hygiene

WHAT CAUSES GUM DISEASE?

Gum inflammation, termed as gingivitis, is the disease that causes your gums to be irritated and swollen. However, if left untreated, it can proceed to a more serious condition known as “periodontitis” which leads to possible tooth loss.

Gingivitis is most often the result of poor oral hygiene, which allows plaque to build up on the gum line and teeth. Plaque is a film composed of bacteria and food particles deposited on the teeth over time. If plaque remains on the teeth for more than a few days, it becomes tartar. Tartar is harder than plaque. You usually can’t remove tartar with flossing and brushing alone. This is when you need to see a dental professional. Tartar buildup can lead to gingivitis (fig.2).


Fig.2 Tartar build seen in this image (yellowish discoloration attached to teeth).

Pregnancy can also gingivitis and is known as “Pregnancy Gingivitis”. The rush of hormones your body produces during pregnancy may increase the blood flow in your gums. This increase in blood flow can cause your gums to be more easily irritated, leading to swelling. These hormonal changes can also hinder your body’s ability to fight off bacteria that typically cause gum infections. This can increase your chance of developing gingivitis.

Vitamin deficiencies, especially vitamin B and C, can cause swollen irritated gums. Vitamin C, for example, plays an important role in repair and maintenance of your teeth and gums.

Infections caused by fungi and viruses can potentially cause swollen gums. Moreover, untreated dental decay can lead to a dental abscess, which is a localized gum swelling.

RISK FACTORS FOR GUM DISEASE

  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Diabetes
  • Certain medications (oral contraceptives, steroids, chemotherapy, anticonvulsants, calcium channel blockers)
  • Crooked teeth
  • Dental appliances that fit poorly
  • Broken filings
  • Pregnancy
  • Genetic factors
  • Compromised immunity ( such as HIV/AIDS patients)

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF GYM DISEASE?

  • Red, tender or swollen gum
  • Bleeding gum during the brushing or flossing the teeth
  • Gum, that pulls away from the teeth
  • Loose teeth
  • Pus between teeth and gums
  • A change in how your teeth fit together (malocclusion)
  • Foul-smelling breathe that does not go away after you brush your teeth
  • Partial dentures that no longer fit
  • Pain while chewing
  • Sensitive teeth

TREATMENT OPTIONS

1) Professional Teeth Cleaning


Scaling removes tartar from above and below the gum line.
Root planning soothes rough spots and removes infected tooth parts.


2) Medications

A number of medications can used to treat gum disease.
Mouthwashes containing chlorhexidine can be used to disinfect the mouth.
Time-release antiseptic chips containing chlorhexidine can be inserted into pockets after root planning.
Oral antibiotics to treat persistent areas of gum disease and inflammations.

3) Surgery

In advanced cases and includes
Flap surgery where the gums are reflected back while plaque and tartar are removed. Gums are sutured back to its place.

Bone and tissue grafts to restore the damaged bone and tissues around the teeth.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO PREVENT GUM DISEASE

  • Brush your teeth 2-3 times per day
  • Floss daily
  • Regular visits to the dentist twice yearly
  • Eat well-balanced diet
  • Avoid risk factors causing gum disease (smoking, etc.)

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