About Gum Disease

About Gum Disease

Gum DiseaseGum disease, also known as periodontal disease (from Greek peri, meaning “around,” and odont, which means “tooth”) is a continuous and progressive bacterial infection, accompanied by inflammation, that occurs in the gum and bone surrounding the teeth. If left untreated, it causes the gums to detach from the teeth and the bone supporting the teeth to be eaten away. Allowed to continue for too long, the teeth become loose and can eventually be lost.

Gum disease is a “quiet” disease that often produces no pain or discomfort until it has reached an advanced stage. It is the leading cause of adult tooth loss in the United States. Gum disease has been linked to numerous serious health problems such as cardiovascular disease, pulmonary infections and diabetes. It is thus important to detect and effectively treat it as early as possible.

Expert gum disease treatment

As a periodontist, Dr. Anzalone is a highly trained dental specialist in the prevention, detection and effective treatment of gum disease. He can eliminate the bacterial infection that causes the inflammation and tissue loss, and can restore oral health. In many cases he can even reverse the damage that was done by gum disease, through periodontal treatments that restore lost gum and bone tissue.

How Gum Disease Progresses

Gum DiseaseWhen the gum and bone around your teeth are healthy, the gums and connective tissue known as periodontal ligaments are attached firmly to your teeth. There is full, normal bone support, and the teeth are stably held in position. The gums are pink in color, firm, and do not bleed easily.

Bacteria accumulate on the teeth and below the visible gum line from food and other sources. If these bacteria are not adequately removed with brushing and flossing, they form a sticky biofilm on the teeth known as plaque. As deposits of plaque grow larger, they harden into what is called tartar or calculus.

The bacteria in the plaque and calculus emit toxins that cause inflammation that irritates the gums. This results in the withdrawal and detachment of the gums from the teeth, and in the destruction of the surrounding bone tissue. As the bacterial infection progresses in size and severity, the level of gum detachment and bone loss increases, and the teeth eventually loosen and can be lost.

Levels of Gum Disease

There are two main levels of gum disease as it progresses from mild to severe.

Gingivitis

The first level of gum disease is known as gingivitis. At this level, the bacterial infection creates inflamed, swollen and reddened gums that may bleed when you brush or try to floss. There is little to no detachment of the gums, and the infection can usually be eliminated by thorough professional dental cleaning, known as deep cleaning, and effective home oral care.

Periodontitis

The second level of gum disease, known as periodontitis, is more severe. At this stage, the infection and accompanying inflammation have caused the gums to progressively detach from the teeth and form “pockets” of space between the teeth and gums. The supporting ligaments and bone are progressively eaten away.

As the gum pockets become deeper, more aggressive strains of bacteria start to take root and grow in these spaces. This exacerbates the infection and the inflammation response, thus causing the gum detachment and bone loss to accelerate in speed and intensity as the infection reaches an advanced stage.

Stages of Periodontitis

Gum Disease Pocket Depth

The first image on the left shows healthy gums. The next three images show mild, moderate and severe periodontitis (gum disease).

Periodontitis progresses in severity from mild to moderate to severe. Dr. Anzalone assesses the level of gum disease in part by gently measuring the depth of the gum pockets with a small probe. He also notes any gums that have receded from the teeth and any teeth that are loose. To evaluate the amount of bone loss around the teeth, he will take X-rays and closely examine them.

Symptoms of Gum Disease

Gingival RecessionThe following are symptoms of gum disease. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should come in for a comprehensive oral exam and periodontal evaluation as soon as possible.

  • Red or swollen gums
  • Gums that have receded from your teeth or teeth that appear longer than normal
  • Tender or bleeding gums
  • Persistent bad breath that will not go away
  • Teeth that have shifted position
  • Teeth that have become loose
  • Painful chewing
  • An abscess originating from below your gumline

Contributing Causes of Gum Disease

Even though bacterial infection and inflammation are the most immediate causes of gum disease, there are a large number of contributing factors that cause the disease to take hold faster and/or progress at greater speed:

  • Insufficient home oral care — Infrequent or improper brushing and flossing allows bacteria to form plaque and eventually calculus (hardened plaque) below the gumline.
  • Inadequate frequency of dental cleanings — Even the best home oral care can miss some of the bacteria that migrate below your gumline. Regular professional cleanings will keep your mouth free of accumulation of bacteria in hard-to-reach areas.
  • Inadequate nutrition — A poor diet that lacks essential nutrients can cause a wide array of health problems that make you more susceptible to gum disease.
  • Genetic predisposition — An estimated 50 percent of the population is genetically predisposed to gum disease. However, effective home oral care and regular professional cleanings can prevent the disease from occurring or at least keep it at bay.
  • Smoking — Smoking and the use of tobacco products restrict blood flow to the gums and lower the tissues’ resistance to infection, as well as their ability to heal. Additionally, studies have found that that the strains of bacteria that most aggressively destroy gum tissue are found in smokers’ mouths.
  • Systemic health issues — Respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and autoimmune disorders can contribute to gum disease by reducing the body’s ability to resist infection.
  • Medical treatments for other problems — Certain treatments for medical conditions weaken the gums or cause excess tissue growth, which make the teeth harder to clean. Additionally, certain medications inhibit the flow of saliva, and saliva has a protective effect on the tissues. Inadequate saliva flow leaves the gums more susceptible to infection.
  • Hormonal changes — Hormonal changes can cause the gums to become more sensitive and thus more susceptible to infection and inflammation.
  • Earlier errors in dental treatment — Poorly fitting crowns or bridges can leave open spaces where bacteria can accumulate and develop an infection.

Gum Disease’s Link to Other Health Problems

Since gum disease is a bacterial infection with inflammation that erodes tissue, the disease-causing bacteria can enter the bloodstream and cause problems in other parts of the body. Numerous studies have demonstrated significant links between gum disease and serious medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, diabetes, strokes and certain forms of cancer.

$79 Gum Disease Consultation

Gum Disease ConsultationIf you think you might have gum disease, or are concerned that past attempts at treatment have not been adequate, take advantage of our $79 New Patient Special to receive a full oral exam and periodontal evaluation from Dr. Anzalone. Your visit will include:

  • Oral exam
  • Full-mouth digital panoramic X-rays
  • Periodontal evaluation
  • Oral cancer screening
  • Consultation with Dr. Anzalone
  • Discuss your treatment options
  • Get all your questions answered

Usual value $247

To make an appointment, call 318‑460‑5055 or click here to request an appointment online.