There are two major issues that affect specifically the gum tissue in the mouth. They are known as gingivitis and periodontal disease.
Gingivitis is extremely common. This term means inflammation of the gingiva (gums). The tissue presents as being red in color, swollen and bleeds easily with brushing or flossing. With proper home care and regular cleanings, this condition can be reversed and maintained. If the gingivitis is not properly cared for however, it may lead to further, permanent damage and a disease called periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease affects a wide range of the population. It is known as a “silent disease” because most people do not realize they have it until symptoms are severe. These symptoms include bleeding gums, heavy tarter and/or plaque accumulation, persistent bad breath and/or bad taste and loose permanent teeth. There are also factors that increase the risk of developing gum disease. These include tobacco use, systemic diseases like diabetes, various types of medication, crooked teeth and ill-fitting restorations.
The disease itself is caused by a bacteria build-up under the gum tissue. The bacterium produces a toxin that is in a way poisonous to the bone and gum tissue. This causes the tissue to become red, inflamed and at times painful. The bone surrounding and supporting the teeth is also affected. The bone actually starts to reduce which causes the teeth to become loose. Periodontal disease is classified according to the severity of the disease. The difference between gingivitis and periodontal disease is that there is actual attachment loss in periodontal disease where as with gingivitis the attachment is still intact.
At your six month dental appointment, an instrument called a periodontal probe is used to perform a screening to check the tissue for periodontal disease. Measurements of pocket depths are taken with the instrument and the lower the number, the healthier the tissue. The higher the measurements, the more attachment loss that is present which correlates with the severity of the disease.
Gum disease is usually preventable. Proper home care which includes brushing several times a day as well as daily flossing will dramatically reduce and possibly completely prevent this silent disease. It is also imperative to go to the dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings.