Gum disease comprises two major forms: gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease. In this diagnosis, there is no bone loss and the gums just exhibit signs of inflammation like bleeding and swelling. When gingivitis is left untreated, it may progress to periodontitis.
How Do I Know If I Have Gum Disease?
Your general dentist will usually take care of your gum health when gum disease is mild. However, your dentist will refer you to see a periodontist when the gum disease become moderate or severe. You can also make an appointment to see a periodontist directly when you notice these signs and symptoms of gum disease.
A periodontist is a specialist in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases surrounding the teeth. They specialize in the treatment of gum disease, in the placement of dental implants, and aesthetic gum surgery.
Signs and symptoms of gum disease:
- Red, swollen or tender gums
- Bleeding gums
- Pus from the gums
- Persistent bad breath
- Gum recession
- Longer teeth
- Persistent spaces between teeth
How does periodontitis develop?
The major cause of gum disease is bacterial plaque, a sticky white film cpomposed of food debris and bacteria that forms on the teeth. If the plaque is not removed, it can turn into a hard substance called calculus or tartar in less than two days. Tartar then acts as a further bacteria trap due to its rough surface.
The bacteria in plaque infect the gums, and release toxins that cause redness and irritation. If the body is healthy, it is able to fight off the bacteria and the disease remains as gingivitis. It doesn’t progress. However once the immunity is weakened from smoking, stress, or a systemic disease, the bacteria wins and the bone and gums surrounding the teeth dissolve due to chemicals released by the body as it desperately tries to wall off the bacteria.
When this happens, the gums separate from the teeth, forming pockets that fill with even more plaque causing even more infection. A vicious cycle now ensues. And it leads to shaky teeth and bad breath from the build up of bacteria in the gums.
What if I do not seek treatment?
Well, you could possibly end up looking and feeling like this. Nuff said.
But I'm too scared to see a dentist! What are my treatment options?
I get it. No one likes a rough talking evil dentist with a huge needle and a huge drill towering over you. But times have changed and at your first visit, we will not proceed with any dental procedure without your consent. We will diagnose the problem and discuss your treatment options with you.
Please tell your dentist or periodontist your fears and our dental team will have a quiet chat with you and literally hold your hand if necessary. There are also other treatment options such a light sedation and general anaesthesia for patients. Periodontists are trained to work with patients with dental phobias! Those with severe gum disease are those who have avoided going to the dentist at all costs for many years. Are you one of them? :)
What can I expect from my treatment?
The periodontist will give you a thorough examination that involves x-rays to check your bone levels. A deep clean of your teeth is usually needed to remove all that gunk underneath your gums. Your periodontist will also help in selecting proper toothbrushes (yes, you might need more than two kinds!) to help you clear the bacteria hiding in those awkward corners.
Sometimes, it might be possible for your periodontist to rebuild your bone with some graft materials. But that should be discussed with your periodontist as that can be done only if certain criteria are fulfilled.
Is it true that the mouth is a reflection of my general health?
Yes. Many studies have shown that gum health is intimately connected with the systemic health of the body. Many research centers worldwide are currently dedicated to finding out more about this topic.
Some of the more well established diseases associated with gum disease include:
It’s a two-way street. Taking care of your gums will lead to less inflammation in the body and better general health. And taking care of your health will lead to a decreased severity and incidence of gum disease. So if you want to feel great and look great (who doesn’t?) DO start taking baby steps to look after your health!
If you need further convincing, read this really good article from The Guardian: Why neglecting your teeth could be seriously bad for your health
How do I look after my teeth to prevent gum disease?
Besides going to your dentist or periodontist every six months and looking out for the above symptoms, proper home care is very important.
Proper home care involves:
- Correct brushing technique that includes brushing the gums
- Bristles that are gentle on the gums and teeth
- Brushing at a 45 degree angle to the gumline
My friend told me I could smoke way my gums. Is that true?
In a way, yes. Smoking is a huge risk factor for gum disease. Cigarette smoke contains alot of toxins that permeate the gums and the blood stream. This depresses the body’s immunity and it weakens the defence against the bacteria in the mouth. This allows the bacteria to create much more havoc in the gums than necessary and the bone and gums start breaking down.
Nicotine in cigarette smoke also vasoconstricts the blood vessels and reduces the gum’s ability to heal after. Just decreasing the number of cigarettes you smoke today will help you heal faster while getting gum treatment!
Dr Teo’s consultation hours:
Monday: 9:00am – 5:00pm
Wednesday: 9:00am – 5:00pm
Thursday: 9:00am – 12:00pm
Friday: 9:00am – 5:00pm
TP Dental Surgeons Pte Ltd
391B Orchard Road
#26-01 Ngee Ann City Tower B
Tel: +65 6737-9011