Illustration of Normal tooth vs. periodontitis

Gum disease is an infection of the tissues that hold your teeth in place. Also known as periodontal disease, it’s usually caused by poor brushing and flossing habits. Symptoms include:

  • Bleeding, swollen, and/or receding gums
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Painful chewing problems
  • Sensitive and/or loose teeth

In advanced stages, periodontal disease may also lead to permanent tooth loss.

Diagnosis of Gum Disease

Dentists and other health care professionals have several ways to diagnose gum disease:

  • A periodontal probe to measure the depths of the pockets around your teeth
  • X-rays to show the level of the underlying bone and whether any has been lost
  • Testing for sensitive teeth caused by receding gums

Types of Gum Disease

Early stage gum disease can usually be reversed, but left untreated it can advance to more severe stages that are more difficult to treat.

Since we’re big believers that knowledge is power, here’s what you should know about the different levels of gum disease.

  • Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease. Healthy gums are pink and firm. With gingivitis, your gums become red, swollen, and bleed easily but are not all that painful. The condition is usually caused by inadequate oral hygiene and is reversible with professional dental treatment.
  • Aggressive periodontitis includes bone destruction and tooth detachment at an advanced pace.
  • Chronic periodontitis, the most frequently occurring form, occurs when the supporting tissues of your teeth are inflamed. The process is the same as aggressive periodontitis, but the progression of attachment loss is slower.
  • Systemic periodontitis typically begins at a young age and is associated with systemic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory diseases.
  • Necrotizing periodontal disease occurs most commonly in patients who are malnourished or suffer from immunosuppression and/or HIV. The name refers to the death of living tissue due to lack of proper dental bone nourishment.

Gum Disease Treatment Options

Without treatment, periodontitis damages the soft tissue and destroys the bone that supports your teeth. To treat your specific type of gum disease, your dentist might recommend:

  • Cleaning the pockets around the teeth to prevent damage to surrounding bone.
  • Non-surgical treatments such as scaling to remove tartar and bacteria, root planing to discourage further buildup of tartar and bacteria that can cause inflammation, and/or antibiotics in the form of rinses or gels to control bacterial infection.
  • Surgical treatments like “flap surgery” to reduce deep pockets, soft tissue grafts, bone grafting to prevent tooth loss, guided tissue regeneration that promotes regrowth of bone lost to bacteria, and tissue-stimulating proteins placed at the tooth root to stimulate healthy bone and tissue growth.

Lifestyle and Gum Disease Maintenance

Mild gum disease can typically be reversed with daily brushing and flossing supplemented with regular cleaning by your dentist or dental hygienist. Other things you can do include:

  • Brushing after every meal or snack
  • Using a soft toothbrush that’s replaced every 3 to 4 months
  • Using an electric toothbrush or dental pick which could remove more plaque and tartar
  • Using a dental rinse to reduce plaque between teeth
  • Giving up smoking or chewing tobacco

If you’ve noticed a change in your gums, Kanehl Dental can recommend the proper treatment and maintenance that is best for your condition. Want to learn more about gum disease and what you can do about it? Contact us today to schedule an appointment.