Dentist in Dana Point explains gum disease symptoms and causes
About half of our population has some form of gum disease including gingivitis, the early stage. Nearly nine percent of individuals aged 20 to 64 have advanced stage periodontal disease, and that figure jumps to over 17 percent for people aged 65 and older. Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults and can have grave impact on overall health. Dr. Mark Cruz, a leading dentist in Dana Point, explains symptoms and causes of gum disease.
How do you know if you have gum disease?
To recognize symptoms of gum disease, it helps to understand characteristics of healthy gums. Vital gum tissue is coral pink or a little darker depending on ethnicity, and consistent at the margin (where gum meets tooth). Gums fit snugly around teeth and have a clean, curving edge. The texture is firm and recovers quickly if compressed with a fingertip or toothbrush. Healthy gums do not bleed without injury.
You probably have gingivitis if you notice:
- Blotchy red or purplish color.
- Darker color at the margin.
- Persistent halitosis (bad breath).
- Odd, metallic taste in the mouth.
- Blood seepage on your pillowcase.
- Bleeding during brushing, flossing, or eating.
When gingivitis is not treated properly, it progresses to periodontitis. Gum tissue loosens around teeth exposing some root surface, which may in turn develop visible decay. Thus, teeth look long and may have spaces between. Gums are noticeably discolored, and breath is foul. As severity progresses, teeth become crooked and loose, eventually falling out, or extraction may be necessary
What causes gum disease?
The human mouth hosts hundreds of strains of bacteria. Some
are beneficial, aiding in digestion, while others can be pathogenic. The
key to a healthy mouth is not sterility, but balance – maintaining a level of hygiene that keeps harmful bacteria from over populating.
Invasive bacteria feed on starches and sugars left behind by
your meals. They create a sticky biofilm of plaque that helps to trap
food particles and protects the organisms from being washed away by
saliva. When plaque is regularly brushed and flossed away, this process
is interrupted. Without a healthy home hygiene regimen, plaque absorbs
minerals from saliva, hardening into calculus (tartar) at the gum line.
As they eat, bacteria produce acidic excretions that trigger
an inflammatory response in gum tissue. Calculus increases irritation,
causing gums to pull away from tooth surfaces. Without this seal,
harmful pathogens penetrate deeper, attacking connective tissues and
bone that stabilize teeth.
While oral hygiene is essential to maintaining a healthy mouth, other factors contribute to your individual propensity to develop gum disease:
- Nutrition – A diet high in sugars, starches, and acidic foods or beverages increases risk of gum disease. Well rounded nutrition helps to keep mouth structures vital. Dr. Cruz may also recommend supplements to nourish gums.
- Tobacco – Cigarettes and all forms of tobacco, including smokeless and vaping, are risk factors. Nicotine constricts blood vessels, reducing flow that brings oxygen to gum tissue. Plus, carcinogens impede the body’s natural healing ability.
- Hormonal changes – Women are more prone to gum disease during pregnancy and menopause. Hormonal fluctuations increase blood flow to gums, causing sensitivity, swelling, and irritation that allows bacteria to infiltrate.
- Medical conditions – An ample flow of saliva helps to flush pathogens from the oral cavity. Certain illnesses, medications, and treatments trigger chronic dry mouth. It is essential to drink plenty of fresh, plain water if this is your situation.
- Genetics – The strains of bacteria that live in your mouth are, in part, a product of heredity. A simple DNA saliva test can predict your tendency to develop gum disease based on genetic markers.
Importance of professional treatment
Gum disease can have far-reaching impact on your health.
Bacteria associated with this condition are also linked to serious
medical issues such as heart attack, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s
disease, respiratory problems, osteoporosis, some types of cancer, and
Professional periodontal treatment removes necrotic tissue, knocks bacterial population down, and helps to re-establish seal of gums to teeth so that healing may occur.
This is not “once and done” – maintenance requires commitment to home
care and regular treatment. However, it is well it for your health and
your beautiful smile.
Call the dentist in Dana Point who explains gum disease causes and symptoms and provides personalized treatment plans – Dr. Mark Cruz at (949) 661-1006.