The two forms of gum disease are gingivitis and periodontal disease. Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gums that surround the teeth and periodontal disease follows when the inflammation goes to the bone beneath the gums. The most common cause of gingivitis is poor dental hygiene. The gums become red and swollen, and it is easy to make them bleed when you brush or floss. It is possible to have both gingivitis and periodontal disease at the same time.
Gingivitis may begin to develop when food debris that is stuck between the teeth and under the gum mixes with saliva. Together, they form plaque that adheres to the surface of the teeth. When plaque remains for a long time, without being removed by brushing or flossing, it becomes calcified and hard and is called tartar.
Once tartar forms, it requires professional cleaning to remove. Plaque and tartar both contain harmful bacteria, and when they are not removed, the bacteria start to irritate the gum, causing gingivitis. Untreated, this inflammation may extend to the bone and result in periodontitis.
When the bone becomes infected, it will begin to recede and form pockets in the gums. These pockets are very difficult to clean and begin to gather plaque and tartar. Gradually, bone loss occurs, and if this is also left untreated, the bone loss can be so severe that the teeth start to fall out.
Improper oral hygiene is the main cause of gum disease, but there are other lifestyle habits that may increase the risk, including:
• Chewing tobacco and smoking
• Overlapping or crooked teeth
• Hormonal changes in the body, including puberty, pregnancy and menopause
• Poor nutrition, including a diet high in sugar
• Cancer treatments, drinking alcohol and stress
• Diabetes mellitus
• Certain medications
• Poor production of saliva
• No regular dental care
If bad breath is caused by poor dental hygiene, it can be reversed with consistent regular cleaning after getting a professional cleaning by our dentist. The bacteria that are normally in the mouth break down the plaque and tartar. This releases chemicals that have a strong odor.
Gum disease may be a contributing factor to health problems in other parts of the body. In some studies, it has been seen that people with gum disease, as compared to people without gum disease, are more prone to developing heart disease and have more difficulty controlling blood sugar. Other studies have shown that the women with gum disease more often deliver preterm babies or babies with low birth weights.
If you properly care for your teeth, they can last your whole life. Regular visits to Chestnut Family Dentistry for checkups and professional cleanings can save your teeth and gums from serious disease. During a dental checkup at our office in Asheville, you can learn if you are beginning to develop gum disease and the best way to cure it. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.