Swollen gums may advance to gum disease without proper dental hygiene
Periodontal disease is commonly referred to as gum disease. What begins as gingivitis (swollen red gums), can progress to periodontitis, which is the loss of bone and connective tissue that holds the teeth in place. With this advanced form of periodontal disease, the gums pull away from the teeth, leaving large spaces or pockets between bone, gums and teeth.
Gum disease is caused by the buildup of plaque, which is caused by bacterial growth in the mouth. It typically begins with poor dental hygiene, such as insufficient brushing and flossing, and not getting regular dental checkups. However, some people may be more at risk for developing periodontal disease, such as women who are pregnant (hormonal changes make the gums more sensitive), and people with diabetes or those with an immune disease. Certain medications as well as smoking can also contribute to gum disease.
Some of the signs of periodontal disease include:
- Bad breath or bad taste
- Pain with chewing
- Sensitive teeth
- Teeth that appear longer (gums receding)
- Tender or bleeding gums
If left untreated, gum disease can eventually lead to tooth loss and infection, which can trigger other health problems.
Periodontal disease is preventable with daily teeth cleaning and regular dental exams. If you are diagnosed with this condition, your dentist may suggest visiting a periodontist who specializes in gum disease.
Treatment may include medication to control plaque and gingivitis along with antibiotics to fight infection. In some cases, surgery may be needed to reconstruct the gums to hold the teeth in place and minimize pockets where food and therefore bacteria can build up.