At Iqaluit Dental Clinic, we believe most people don’t realize how gum disease can become a silent killer. It is crucial to pay attention to your oral hygiene when you notice the first symptoms of gum disease such as bleeding gums or toothache. Otherwise, it can lead to the loss of teeth and bone in your mouth. In extreme cases, it can increase the risk of other health issues such as stroke, diabetes, lung diseases, and heart disease.

What is gum disease?

The inflammation of the gums due to bacterial infection and the overgrowth of dental plaque usually leads to gum disease known as gingivitis. It is usually the cause of not practising proper oral hygiene, vitamin C deficiency, consuming certain medications, and more.

Without treatment, gingivitis can damage the soft tissue of your gums, make your teeth loose and unstable, and lead to gum infections, cavities, and tooth loss. In extreme cases, it can lead to a more severe form of gum disease known as periodontitis which destroys the bone that supports your teeth.

The symptoms of gum disease

There are various symptoms of gum disease depending on the stage of progression. Let’s look at the symptoms of gum disease below:

1. Swollen and bleeding gums – Typically, the earliest signs of gum disease include red, swollen gums that are painful and tender to the touch. During this stage, your gum can bleed easily when you brush or floss your teeth.

2. Gum changes – Over time, your gums can pull away from your teeth and become shorter and your teeth can look longer due to the receding gum line. You can also notice the development of spaces in the form of black triangles between your teeth. Your teeth will not fit together when you bite, in severe cases. This happens due to the loss of bones that support your teeth.

3. Teeth sensitivity and pain – The receding gums expose the sensitive part of your teeth known as the dentin. As a result, people who suffer from gingivitis often experience tooth sensitivity and tooth pain when exposed to cold water and drinks. You might also notice pus between the teeth and the gums which is a sign of infection and the cause of pain.

4. Bad breath – Gingivitis can cause chronic bad breath that doesn’t go away even after you brush and floss your teeth regularly.

The risk factors of gum disease

Certain people are at more risk of suffering from gum diseases. Let’s check out the risk factors for gum disease below:

  • Genetic factors
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Crooked teeth
  • Suppressed immunity
  • Certain diseases such as diabetes, HIV/AIDS, cancer, arthritis
  • Pregnancy
  • Certain medications such as steroids, oral contraceptives, chemotherapy, calcium channel blockers, and anticonvulsants.
  • Broken fillings
  • Improper fit on dental appliances
  • Recreational drug use
  • Poor oral care habits
  • Poor nutrition.

How is gum disease diagnosed?

Your dentist will diagnose whether you have gum disease during your dental exam. The first step is to review your medical history and consider factors that can be linked to the symptoms you are experiencing. For instance, whether your dry mouth is caused due to smoking or certain medications.

Your Dentist will examine your mouth for plaque and tartar build-up and whether gums bleed easily. They will use a dental probe to measure the depth of the pockets between the teeth and the gum line. A healthy pocket will have a depth of 1 to 3 mm whereas pockets deeper than 4 mm indicate periodontitis. Finally, the dentist will take dental X-rays to check for signs of bone loss.

Treatment options for gum disease

The treatment options for gum disease can vary depending on the cause and severity of the problem. Let’s look at the treatment options for gum disease below:

1. Non-surgical treatments – Non-surgical treatment options include professional dental cleaning, scaling, and root planing. During a professional dental cleaning and teeth scaling, the dentist will remove plaque and tartar from above and below the gum line to clean your teeth thoroughly. It might be done using an ultrasonic device, a laser, or an ultrasonic device.

Root planning is done to prevent the build-up of plaque or tartar in the future by smoothing the root surface. It also helps the gum to attach to the teeth surface more easily.

2. Medications – There are a variety of medications that can be used for the treatment of gum diseases. Let’s look at them in detail below:

  • Antibiotic microsphere or antibiotic chip – These include tiny antibiotic gels or particles that are inserted into gum pockets and release medication such as chlorhexidine or minocycline to combat bacteria.
  • Enzyme suppressants – These include antibiotics such as doxycycline that block certain enzymes in your mouth that facilitate the breakdown of gum tissue.
  • Antibiotic gels – Antibiotic gels are applied to the gum pockets to control bacterial infection.

3. Surgical treatments – Advanced periodontitis requires dental surgery. Let’s take a look at them below:

  • Pocket reduction or flap surgery – The dentist removes plaque and tartar more effectively by lifting the gums. The underlying bone may be reshaped before the gum tissue is stitched back.
  • Bone grafting – Bone grafting is done using small bits of your bone to heal the bone around the tooth’s root. It helps prevent tooth loss and serves as a stable platform for the regrowth of natural bone.
  • Soft tissue grafts – Soft tissue grafts are done by using a small amount of tissue from the roof of your mouth to cover exposed teeth roots and prevent further gum loss.
  • Guided tissue regeneration – This process is used when the bone supporting your teeth has been destroyed. It is done with the help of a special mesh-like fabric.
  • Tissue-stimulating proteins – It involves the use of special gels that contain proteins which stimulate the growth of healthy bone and tissue.

At Iqaluit Dental Clinic, we suggest you book an appointment with the dentist if you believe you have gum disease. Gingivitis can still be reversed during its early stages but it becomes irreversible if it progresses into periodontitis. That’s why it is important to maintain good oral hygiene and visit the dentist every 3 to 6 months so that they can check for the early signs of gum disease.