Gum disease or periodontal disease is a prevalent problem worldwide. It is an issue that will affect many people at some point during their lifetime, and without prompt treatment, it can result in tooth loss. But, is it possible for some people to be more at risk of gum disease than others?
Certainly, if your parents or siblings have lost teeth because of gum disease, it’s possible that your risk may be quite high, and the chances of developing gum disease increase with age. Usually, it’s a disease that develops when there are larger quantities of bacteria in the mouth and which remain in contact with the gums for longer periods. The longer the bacteria remain on the gums, the greater the destruction caused by this disease. Although your risk of gum disease may be higher because of certain genetic conditions, it’s often simply due to poor oral hygiene. If you grew up in a household where dental care wasn’t a priority, then it’s highly likely other family members have lost teeth.
Oral Bacteria Are Passed From Person to Person
Another factor that can play a part in a family history of gum disease is the transfer of bacteria from parent to child. It’s been suggested that the bacteria in a parent’s mouth can be transferred to their children through saliva whenever they kiss a child or share utensils with them.
Additionally, it’s thought up to a third of the population may be genetically more susceptible toward developing gum disease. Unfortunately, people with this disposition can be up to 6 times more likely to develop periodontal disease despite having an excellent oral hygiene routine. It’s worth remembering that you inherit your immune system from your parents, and this plays an important part in fighting periodontal disease.
Smoking Increases Your Risk of Gum Disease
If you smoke or use tobacco products, your risk of developing periodontal disease is also higher. Smokers tend to have more bacteria that cause periodontal disease, and these develop more quickly over their tooth surfaces. One of the problems with smoking is that it can mask the early signs of periodontal disease, so smokers are less aware that anything is wrong.
What Is Gum Disease?
Gum disease or periodontal disease is a bacterial infection. Each day bacteria build up over your tooth surfaces and your gums in what’s called dental plaque. This is a sticky biofilm that must be removed with regular brushing and flossing. Failing to remove the plaque biofilm thoroughly allows bacteria to remain on your teeth and gums. Within just a couple of days, plaque hardens into tartar or calculus and especially around the gum line which is the junction where your teeth meet your gums. Tartar is a very hard crusty yellow looking substance that can only be removed during a professional dental cleaning. You might have noticed that your dental hygienist uses special tools to scrape around your teeth, and they are removing all that tartar.
When tartar isn’t removed and is allowed to build up, the bacteria within it continue to produce toxins that infect your gums. Your body’s immune system tries to fight this infection, but this immune response gradually destroys the structures around your teeth, and which support them. In addition to your gums, inflammation will destroy the bone around your teeth and what are called periodontal ligaments. These are pieces of tissue that stretch from your teeth into the tooth sockets, ensuring your teeth are held in place.
What Are the Symptoms of Gum Disease?
One of the major symptoms of gum disease is gums that bleed. It’s important to realize that bleeding gums aren’t natural or healthy and to know that you must seek urgent dental treatment. If your gums bleed when you brush or floss, don’t delay but go and see a dentist or periodontist. Other potential signs that this stage is noticing your gums look a bit red or swollen. The good news is that the early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis, and it is entirely reversible.
How Is Gingivitis Diagnosed?
Your dentist can assess your gum health, and they will most likely use what’s called a periodontal probe to take careful measurements around each tooth. To do this, they will gently probe each gum to measure the depth of the space in between the gum and tooth. Usually, this space is minimal and will have a depth of not more than 3 mm. When gum is infected this depth increases. The deeper the space or pocket, the greater the infection and inflammation. These measurements are also used to monitor your oral health closely at every appointment. Based on their assessment, your dentist can determine the degree of infection and can prescribe the most appropriate treatment.
How Is Gingivitis Treated?
Usually, gingivitis is simply treated by having your teeth cleaned professionally. Professional dental cleaning removes all the tartar buildup causing the infection and inflammation, giving your gums a greater chance to heal. Also, you will need to work on improving your oral hygiene routine. Your hygienist can assist you and can discuss the best brushing and flossing techniques and routines for your needs. If you follow their instructions, your gums will soon become stronger and healthier and will cease bleeding.
What Happens Without Treatment for Gingivitis?
Without treatment, gingivitis will continue to worsen, and the pockets around your teeth will become deeper and more infected as your gums are destroyed. Eventually, the infection will spread to the ligaments and bone around your teeth, and you could even notice your teeth have begun to move as they loosen in their sockets. You may have permanently bad breath and a bad taste, and your teeth will start to look longer as your gums recede. Over time, severely receded gums will require a gum grafting procedure to save the teeth from falling out.
Even at this stage, some treatments can help you, but you will need to see a periodontist as they have the advanced training required to treat this disease. Usually, advanced gum disease or periodontitis is chronic, but although it may not be curable, it can often be controlled with ongoing treatment.
Periodontal or gum disease is what is called a silent disease and without proper care, everybody is at risk of developing it. Even if your risk is genetically higher, good preventative dentistry can do a lot to prevent it.