Disease: Gum Problems

    Gum health introduction

    Our gums (or "gingiva") act as an important barrier in protecting our teeth and their surrounding support structures. A little known fact is that gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. Strong healthy teeth are dependent on healthy gums. The main culprit for gum problems is bacteria in dental plaque. (Bacteria in plaque produce harmful toxins that create an inflammatory process in the gum tissue.) If left for a long enough period of time, bacterial plaque causes damage to our teeth as well as our gums.

    What are common gum problems?

    The most common gum problem is gingivitis and is found in over 50% of the adult U.S. population. Gingivitis is defined as inflammation of the gums. Signs of gum inflammation include bleeding during tooth-brushing, swollen-looking gums, and red gums. Healthy gums generally appear firm, coral-pink, and do not bleed with stimulation. Gums can appear dark from pigmentation in certain ethnic populations and is considered normal.

    The second most common gum problem is gum disease, also called "periodontitis." More than 25% of the adult U.S. population suffers from gum disease. Periodontitis exhibits similar signs to gingivitis except it also can result in gum tissue and jawbone loss. The damage of periodontitis is particularly concerning in that the loss of gum tissue and bone loss cannot be recovered. Periodontitis typically progresses over time and may not produce painful symptoms until the disease reaches the later stages of damage. Unfortunately, this explains why gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss.

    Another gum problem that is seen in adults is gum recession. Gum recession is when the root of the tooth becomes exposed as gum pulls away from its original attachment. This could be a result of gum disease as the jawbone surrounding the teeth is lost. Wherever jawbone is lost, gums will follow, and this exposes the root of the tooth. Exposed roots can be sensitive to temperature, are more prone to decay, and can present a cosmetic concern. Other causes for gum recession include teeth grinding, use of chewing tobacco, brushing too aggressively, hereditary weak gums, orthodontic treatment, or trauma.

    Another gum problem, albeit less common, is a gum abscess (or "periodontal abscess"). It presents as a blister or a bump in the gum that contains pus. It is caused by a bacterial infection that takes place in a deep gum pocket causing pain and swelling.

    What causes gum problems?

    A healthy mouth is host to a complex and dynamic community of bacteria. In fact, the presence of oral bacteria is generally beneficial to the well-being of the mouth. Problems begin when there is a change in the balance of the bacteria in the mouth. Oral bacteria are able to adhere to teeth and gums in the form of dental plaque, which is the soft, sticky film that forms on teeth everyday. If dental plaque remains for a prolonged period of time, it turns into a hardened calcified deposit called tartar that sticks to teeth near the gums. Tartar cannot be brushed or flossed away. Furthermore, tartar creates an environment for more dental plaque to accumulate. With the overgrowth of dental plaque and buildup of tartar, the balance of oral bacteria in the mouth shifts to unhealthy proportions.

    With the presence of dental plaque, the gums respond with inflammation. Inflammation is the process that can ultimately lead to loss of gum attachment (or "periodontal ligament") and jawbone deterioration.

    What are the risk factors for gum problems?

    Poor dental hygiene practices that allow for dental plaque to buildup are directly linked to gum problems. Additional risk factors to consider are as follows:

    • Smoking: This habit is a strong factor in the progression of gum disease.
    • Genetics: Family history may influence who is more susceptible to gum problems.
    • Diabetes: This systemic disease may cause an individual to have a weaker defense against gum problems. Other systemic diseases such as heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis have been linked to gum problems as well.
    • Age: Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that more than 70% of the U.S. population age 65 and older has gum disease.
    • Poor nutrition: Vitamin or nutrient deficiencies in diet can adversely affect the body's ability to fight off infections, including those related to the gums.

    What are signs and symptoms of gum problems?

    Healthy gums should appear coral pink and firm without bleeding. Signs and symptoms of gum inflammation include redness, swelling, bleeding, and pain. Any of these signs could indicate a problem. Receding gums may also be a sign of gum disease. Gums recede as a result of the destruction of the underlying bone surrounding the teeth. Once the bone is lost, the gums recede and expose the root surface of a tooth.

    Can gum problems be a sign of something serious?

    Given the fact that gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss, having healthy gums is certainly something for which we should strive. Loss of teeth can negatively impact an individual in many ways through loss of nutrition, psycho-social concerns, and self-esteem issues.

    Also, gum problems have been linked to several systemic diseases including, most notably, heart disease. Inflammation appears to be the key factor that links heart disease to gum problems. Research suggests that having gum disease increases the risk of heart disease in an individual.

    How are gum problems treated?

    A gum exam performed by a dentist can determine the best way to treat a gum problem. The exam measures the gum pockets ("periodontal pocket") around all the teeth and gum recession as well as takes note of signs of inflammation. For the periodontal pocket, a higher measurement may indicate bone loss. For more advanced gum problems, a gum specialist ("periodontist") is seen for treatment.

    In the case of gingivitis, a professional dental cleaning may be needed to remove the buildup of tartar and plaque around the teeth. This procedure allows the gums to heal. Additionally, specific oral hygiene instruction and a recommended schedule for routine care are equally important to maintaining gum health.

    For gum disease, treatment is more involved. The first step usually involves a more thorough deep professional dental cleaning called "scaling and root planing." This removes the tartar deposits and plaque that are deeply sequestered in the pockets of the gums. Medications can also be employed to control bacteria infecting the gums. The medications come in the form of antimicrobial (antibacterial) oral rinses, oral antibiotics, and antibiotics placed directly into the gum pockets. Lastly, there is gum surgery to treat areas that do not respond to scaling and root planing and/or medications. The goal of gum surgery is to remove diseased tissue, preserve the remaining gums and bone, and create an environment that is easy to keep clean.

    Usually, gum recession is left alone unless there is an extensive amount of recession that compromises the health of the tooth or there is a cosmetic concern. A procedure called a "gum graft" may be performed that takes tissue from another area in the mouth (such as the roof of the mouth) and surgically grafts it onto the area of recession.

    For a gum abscess, scaling and root planing is performed to clear out debris, diseased tissue, and any pus that may be present. The area is irrigated with antimicrobial rinses and may have antibiotics directly placed into the pocket. Oral antibiotics may also be prescribed to help control the infection. Once the abscess disappeared, the area can be assessed for further treatment such as surgery to avoid a reoccurring gum problem.

    What causes gum problems?

    A healthy mouth is host to a complex and dynamic community of bacteria. In fact, the presence of oral bacteria is generally beneficial to the well-being of the mouth. Problems begin when there is a change in the balance of the bacteria in the mouth. Oral bacteria are able to adhere to teeth and gums in the form of dental plaque, which is the soft, sticky film that forms on teeth everyday. If dental plaque remains for a prolonged period of time, it turns into a hardened calcified deposit called tartar that sticks to teeth near the gums. Tartar cannot be brushed or flossed away. Furthermore, tartar creates an environment for more dental plaque to accumulate. With the overgrowth of dental plaque and buildup of tartar, the balance of oral bacteria in the mouth shifts to unhealthy proportions.

    With the presence of dental plaque, the gums respond with inflammation. Inflammation is the process that can ultimately lead to loss of gum attachment (or "periodontal ligament") and jawbone deterioration.

    What are the risk factors for gum problems?

    Poor dental hygiene practices that allow for dental plaque to buildup are directly linked to gum problems. Additional risk factors to consider are as follows:

    • Smoking: This habit is a strong factor in the progression of gum disease.
    • Genetics: Family history may influence who is more susceptible to gum problems.
    • Diabetes: This systemic disease may cause an individual to have a weaker defense against gum problems. Other systemic diseases such as heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis have been linked to gum problems as well.
    • Age: Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that more than 70% of the U.S. population age 65 and older has gum disease.
    • Poor nutrition: Vitamin or nutrient deficiencies in diet can adversely affect the body's ability to fight off infections, including those related to the gums.

    What are signs and symptoms of gum problems?

    Healthy gums should appear coral pink and firm without bleeding. Signs and symptoms of gum inflammation include redness, swelling, bleeding, and pain. Any of these signs could indicate a problem. Receding gums may also be a sign of gum disease. Gums recede as a result of the destruction of the underlying bone surrounding the teeth. Once the bone is lost, the gums recede and expose the root surface of a tooth.

    Can gum problems be a sign of something serious?

    Given the fact that gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss, having healthy gums is certainly something for which we should strive. Loss of teeth can negatively impact an individual in many ways through loss of nutrition, psycho-social concerns, and self-esteem issues.

    Also, gum problems have been linked to several systemic diseases including, most notably, heart disease. Inflammation appears to be the key factor that links heart disease to gum problems. Research suggests that having gum disease increases the risk of heart disease in an individual.

    How are gum problems treated?

    A gum exam performed by a dentist can determine the best way to treat a gum problem. The exam measures the gum pockets ("periodontal pocket") around all the teeth and gum recession as well as takes note of signs of inflammation. For the periodontal pocket, a higher measurement may indicate bone loss. For more advanced gum problems, a gum specialist ("periodontist") is seen for treatment.

    In the case of gingivitis, a professional dental cleaning may be needed to remove the buildup of tartar and plaque around the teeth. This procedure allows the gums to heal. Additionally, specific oral hygiene instruction and a recommended schedule for routine care are equally important to maintaining gum health.

    For gum disease, treatment is more involved. The first step usually involves a more thorough deep professional dental cleaning called "scaling and root planing." This removes the tartar deposits and plaque that are deeply sequestered in the pockets of the gums. Medications can also be employed to control bacteria infecting the gums. The medications come in the form of antimicrobial (antibacterial) oral rinses, oral antibiotics, and antibiotics placed directly into the gum pockets. Lastly, there is gum surgery to treat areas that do not respond to scaling and root planing and/or medications. The goal of gum surgery is to remove diseased tissue, preserve the remaining gums and bone, and create an environment that is easy to keep clean.

    Usually, gum recession is left alone unless there is an extensive amount of recession that compromises the health of the tooth or there is a cosmetic concern. A procedure called a "gum graft" may be performed that takes tissue from another area in the mouth (such as the roof of the mouth) and surgically grafts it onto the area of recession.

    For a gum abscess, scaling and root planing is performed to clear out debris, diseased tissue, and any pus that may be present. The area is irrigated with antimicrobial rinses and may have antibiotics directly placed into the pocket. Oral antibiotics may also be prescribed to help control the infection. Once the abscess disappeared, the area can be assessed for further treatment such as surgery to avoid a reoccurring gum problem.

    Source: http://www.rxlist.com

    A healthy mouth is host to a complex and dynamic community of bacteria. In fact, the presence of oral bacteria is generally beneficial to the well-being of the mouth. Problems begin when there is a change in the balance of the bacteria in the mouth. Oral bacteria are able to adhere to teeth and gums in the form of dental plaque, which is the soft, sticky film that forms on teeth everyday. If dental plaque remains for a prolonged period of time, it turns into a hardened calcified deposit called tartar that sticks to teeth near the gums. Tartar cannot be brushed or flossed away. Furthermore, tartar creates an environment for more dental plaque to accumulate. With the overgrowth of dental plaque and buildup of tartar, the balance of oral bacteria in the mouth shifts to unhealthy proportions.

    With the presence of dental plaque, the gums respond with inflammation. Inflammation is the process that can ultimately lead to loss of gum attachment (or "periodontal ligament") and jawbone deterioration.

    Source: http://www.rxlist.com

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