While you may be diligent in keeping your teeth looking good for the sake of your smile, you may not give much thought to your gums most of the time. However, if those gums become infected, the consequences can be severe and affect your smile as well as your overall health. It is important to learn to recognize the symptoms of an early gum infection so you can treat the problem before it worsens and poses a danger to your teeth and other parts of your body.
Gingivitis: Early Warning Signs
Gingivitis is the mildest form of a gum infection. This condition is usually caused by improper dental hygiene, which allows tartar buildup on your teeth that allows bacteria to get beneath the gum line. In addition to poor dental hygiene, risk factors for gingivitis include:
• Chewing tobacco or smoking
• Some types of medications
• Some medical conditions
When treated in the early stages, gingivitis responds well to improved brushing and flossing, as well as professional cleaning by a dental hygienist. If gingivitis is left unchecked, it can develop into a more serious form of gum disease known as periodontitis.
Periodontitis: Beginning of Bigger Problems
Periodontitis is a progression from gingivitis, where the gums will begin to pull away from the teeth due to the infection underneath. Toxins in the bacteria, as well as the body’s own immune response to the infection, can start to destroy the tissue and bone that holds teeth in their position. This can lead to loose teeth, tooth loss and even damage to the jawbone. In some cases, surgery may be required to correct the damage and promote healing of the infection.
Symptoms of periodontitis might include:
• Red, swollen and bleeding gums
• Sensitive or loose teeth
• Dental appliances that no longer fit
Periodontitis and Other Health Problems
In addition, to the toll periodontitis can take inside your mouth, researchers are beginning to discover this gum infection may be linked to the following health issues:
• Heart disease and stroke
• Premature births (seen with mothers diagnosed with periodontitis)
• Diabetes (may be more difficult to control diabetes if periodontitis is present)
Preventing Gum Infections
Prevention of gum infections is the best way to avoid these complications. For most people, this means brushing your teeth after meals. It is also a good idea to brush the tongue during these sessions since bacteria tends to hide there. Mouthwash should be used after every brushing session and flossing should be done daily to keep food particles from getting stuck between teeth. Regular appointments with your dentist every six months will also help to keep your teeth healthy and infection-free.
If gingivitis or periodontitis does develop, early treatment is imperative to save your teeth and your smile. Treatment options might include deep cleaning techniques or medications to rid your mouth of bacteria and stimulate healing in the gums. Advanced cases may require surgical treatments, such as flap surgery or bone and tissue grafts to repair damage that has been done.
Periodontal disease is a serious condition that can affect much more than your smile. If you suspect you have a gum infection now is the time to call La Jolla Cosmetic Dentistry at 858-295-0603 to learn about your treatment options.