What Does It Mean to be High Risk for Gum Disease?

What is Gum Disease?

Gum disease, referred to as periodontal disease, is a disease that affects the structures supporting the teeth, including both the gums and the jawbone.  Its primary cause is bacterial buildup on the teeth, and some people have a higher risk due to genetic factors, systemic disorders (such as diabetes), and habits (such as smoking or oral tobacco use).

What are the Stages of Gum Disease?

The earliest stage of periodontal disease is called gingivitis, which means inflammation of the gums.  Inflammation can involve one or more of the following:

  • A bright red color to the gums
  • Swollen or puffy gums
  • Gums that bleed easily when brushing, flossing or having teeth professionally cleaned

How Does Gum Disease Happen?

Periodontal disease begins with the accumulation of bacteria and plaque on the teeth.  This can be due to poor oral hygiene, and it can also be due to the presence of very difficult-to-clean areas on your teeth.  When teeth are crooked or rotated, they collect more bacteria.  We all have different types of bacteria in our mouths, and some types are more destructive than others, meaning they are more likely to cause disease.  Research studies show that the types of bacteria that gather on crooked teeth are more likely to cause periodontal disease than the types of bacteria that collect on straight teeth.  Periodontal disease progresses as the bacteria and plaque harden on the teeth into tartar, which can only be removed with a professional cleaning.  If no professional dental care is completed, the tartar accumulation will grow, causing more inflammation and more serious damage to the gum and bone.  In severe periodontal disease, the supporting structures have become so damaged that they can no longer hold the teeth, which become loose and have to be extracted.

What Does it Mean to be High Risk?

If, during your evaluation, you presented with some signs of gingivitis, you would be classified as high risk for periodontal disease.  As stated earlier, gingivitis is the first step to periodontal disease, and if left untreated, it can lead to a progression of disease.  The good news is that in the early stages, periodontal disease is completely reversible!

Risk Factors Noted During a Dental Evaluation:

  • Gum pockets measuring ›3mm
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Crowded teeth
  • Previous gum disease
  • Bone loss
  • Mobility (loose teeth)
  • Gum recession
  • Mucogingival defect (gum tissue that is not attached to the bone underneath it)
  • Abnormal muscle attachments

What Can I Do About it?

  1. Have a professional dental cleaning.  This removes the bacterial accumulation from the teeth, essentially giving you a “clean slate”.
  2. Change your oral hygiene routine as directed by your dentist or hygienist. This may involve different toothbrushing techniques, an electric toothbrush, consistent flossing, interdental brushes, etc . . .
  3. If prescribed by your dentist, begin an antibiotic mouthrinse daily. The more bacteria you kill, the less there are to accumulate on your teeth.
  4. Return for a follow-up professional cleaning in 6-8 weeks. This allows us to assess the home care, suggest any positive changes to be made, and again remove bacteria that have accumulated.

What if I Don’t Do Anything?

Without treatment, bacterial levels will increase, causing more accumulation of plaque and tartar.  More plaque and tartar causes more inflammation and response from the gums and bone.  As the bone migrates away from the tartar buildup, which it considers a foreign substance, the support for the teeth is slowly lost.  In a worst case scenario, untreated periodontal disease eventually leads to loss of all teeth and loss of the underlying jawbone, which makes future treatment with either dentures or dental implants less predictable.

Concerned About Gum Disease?

Call our office today at 940-382-1750 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Chowning.  He will evaluate your gums and assess your risk factors.  You can get started with treatment as soon as possible!

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