What is gum disease? What are the types of gum disease?
Gum disease is an infection of the tissues of the gums. It is also known as periodontal disease.
There are two types of gum disease:
Gingivitis: Gingivitis is a milder form of gum disease and only affects the gums.
Periodontitis: Periodontitis is a severe form of gum disease and affects both the gums and bones supporting the teeth.
Causes of gum disease:
Gum disease is caused by bacteria that grow in the teeth and gums. Bacteria form and grow in a sticky layer on the teeth, known as plaque. The bacteria present in the plaque breakdown sugars in the food and produce acids and toxins which affect the enamel layer of the teeth and irritate the tissues of the gums. This causes inflammation to the gums and makes them bleed easily.
If proper oral hygiene is not maintained plaque can buildup and harden into calculus or tartar. Tartar irritates the gums even more. It can also cause the gums to pull away from the teeth.
The following can increase the risk of gum disease:
Improper oral hygiene: Not brushing teeth regularly or properly can increase bacterial buildup and cause gum disease. To prevent gum disease, it is also important to floss and use a medicated mouthwash. Regular dental cleanings are also important.
Smoking or using tobacco: People who smoke or use tobacco are at a higher risk of developing gum disease. They are also more likely to lose teeth due to gum disease. Smoking or using tobacco may make treatment less effective.
Heredity or genetic predisposition: If you have a history of gum disease in your family, you are at a higher risk.
Certain diseases: Diseases such as diabetes, leukemia or AIDS increase the risk of gum disease significantly. These conditions weaken the immune system and make it difficult for the body to fight against bacterial infection. Gum disease is also more common in people who lead a stressful life.
Improper diet: A poor diet can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of gum disease. Therefore, a balanced diet containing the right quantities of vitamins and minerals is important. Taking foods rich in carbohydrates and sugars can also increase the risk of gum disease as they help plaque grow.
Symptoms of gum disease:
Healthy gums are firm and pink in color. They also fit tightly around the teeth. They do not bleed easily. If gums exhibit different characteristics than these, it is an indication of gum disease.
Symptoms of gingivitis:
* Red, swollen and tender gums
* Gums that bleed during brushing or flossing
Gingivitis is often painless and therefore the symptoms may not be observed. This is one of the reasons why it is not treated on time and leads to periodontitis.
Symptoms of periodontitis:
* Receding gums i.e. gums that pull away from the teeth
* Bad breath
* Formation of pus in the gums
* Change in the fitting of the teeth
* Loosening of teeth
If any of these symptoms are experienced, a dentist should be consulted immediately. Treatment in the early stages of periodontitis is more effective and also prevents the condition from getting worse.
Types of gum disease:
If gingivitis is left untreated, it can lead to periodontitis, resulting in loss of teeth and other health problems.
Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease. Gingivitis causes red, swollen gums that bleed easily. Gingivitis doesn’t cause any pain or discomfort and therefore may not be observed in the initial stages. Gingivitis is caused by improper oral hygiene. If proper oral hygiene is maintained and if treatment is done in time, gingivitis is reversible.
Factors that can increase the risk of gingivitis include smoking, genetic predisposition, diabetes, systemic diseases, improper diet, stress, hormonal problems, HIV infection, substance abuse and pregnancy. Certain medications also increase the risk of gingivitis.
Gingivitis, if left untreated, can develop into periodontitis. If proper oral hygiene is not maintained, plaque can spread and grow below the gum line. The bacteria present in the plaque produce acid and toxins which cause irritation to the tissues of the gums. This causes a chronic inflammatory response which causes damage to the tissues of the gums and bones supporting the teeth. The gums may recede from the teeth and lead to formation of infected pockets between the teeth and gums. As periodontitis progresses, the pockets may deepen leading to destruction of more gum tissue and bone. Eventually, this leads to weakening of the teeth and their loss.
There are many types of periodontitis. Types of periodontitis include:
Aggressive periodontitis: Aggressive periodontitis is characterized by rapid attachment loss and destruction of bone supporting the teeth. It occurs in people who are otherwise clinically healthy.
Chronic periodontitis: Chronic periodontitis is the most common type of periodontitis. It is characterized by formation of pockets and recession of the gums. It causes inflammation within the tissues supporting the teeth, progressive attachment and loss of bone. It is more common in adults but can occur in all age groups. Progression of attachment loss may occur slowly but periods of rapid progression may also occur.
Periodontitis as a manifestation of systemic diseases: Periodontitis is associated with a number of systemic diseases such as diabetes, leukemia, etc. Systemic diseases are associated with periodontal disease because they decrease resistance to infections or cause dysfunction in the connective tissue of the gums, increasing patient susceptibility to inflammation-induced destruction. Periodontitis as a manifestation of systemic diseases often begins at a young age.
Necrotizing periodontal disease: Necrotizing periodontal disease is characterized by death or necrosis of gum tissues, periodontal ligament and alveolar bone. It leads to formation of lesions. Necrotizing periodontal disease is commonly observed in patients with HIV infection, malnutrition and weakened immune system.