The mouth is home to naturally occurring bacteria called plaque that proper oral healthcare is meant to combat. Bacteria that are allowed to linger in the mouth can become a hardened tartar that sinks into the gums. This tartar can then cause gum disease.
When gum disease begins, symptoms are relatively minor inflammation and tenderness. But left unchecked the disease can lead to tooth loss, bone degradation and the need for dental replacements.
There are two common gum diseases that adults need to watch for during the oral healthcare routine.
Gingivitis is a common mild gum disease that can present without any pain. Typically, the telltale sign of gingivitis can be seen in the gums. Are your gums red, swollen and prone to bleeding when you floss or brush your teeth? You might have gingivitis.
The good news is that gingivitis is highly treatable if you visit the dentist as soon as symptoms appear. A dentist-provided teeth cleaning is the only way to remove that hardened tartar. Your dentist will also instruct you on a proper oral healthcare routine that will keep plaque buildup at bay in the future so that it doesn't lead to tartar.
If gingivitis isn't treated, the bacteria buildup inside the gums can trigger an autoimmune response that causes the body to overly attack the area trying to get rid of the inflammation. This overreaction leads to the breakdown of gum tissue and the supporting jawbone. Pockets form in the gums that offer a great hiding place for further bacteria to take hold. This cycle is called periodontitis.
Chronic periodontitis is the most common form of the disease and is especially common in older adults. In the chronic form, the disease deteriorates the gums and bone slowly enough that an attentive dentist can often prevent serious damage from occurring.
When caught early, chronic periodontitis can often be cured with scaling and root planing. These procedures involve the dentist using traditional and ultrasonic tools to clean the bacteria out of the gum pockets. The gums are then cut and stitched back close to the teeth to prevent further bacteria buildups in that region.
If the disease is allowed to progress to the advanced stages, teeth might fall out or require extraction. The dentist will likely still need to perform the gum procedures before a dental replacement such as a dental implant can be used to replace the missing tooth.