Man pulling down lower lip to show area with gum disease.

Caring for your oral health involves more than preventing cavities and keeping your teeth white. Taking care of your gums is also essential for overall oral health. Your teeth cannot remain healthy if you do not make proper gum care a priority. The condition of your gums can have a direct impact on your teeth. For example, advanced gum disease can cause your gums to recede, separate from your teeth, and lead to tooth loss. Therefore, it is essential to learn about what causes gum disease and to be able to recognize the symptoms of gum disease.

What is Periodontal (Gum) Disease?

What is gum disease? Gum disease is the inflammation or infection of the gums. Gum disease is also referred to as periodontal disease and can be categorized as either gingivitis or periodontitis. You can develop gum disease symptoms when harmful bacteria irritate your gums. Plaque and tartar are substances that can get on your teeth and cause you to develop gum disease. Other factors like medications, genetics, illness, and physical changes can make you more susceptible to gum disease. Gum disease is prevalent in the United States – over 47% of adults age 30+ have some form of periodontal disease. However, gum disease is common does not diminish the seriousness of the potential side effects.

Types of Periodontal (Gum) Disease

Two primary types of periodontal disease pose a threat to the health of your gums: gingivitis and periodontitis. To determine how to treat gum disease, your dentist or gum disease specialist will first need to identify the form of gum disease.

Gingivitis – Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease. The symptoms are bearable and temporary as long as you take steps to reverse the gingivitis. However, a buildup of plaque and tartar from poor oral care can cause gingivitis. It is easy to develop gingivitis, but the treatment is often as simple as improving your oral care routine.

Periodontitis – Periodontitis is the more severe form of gum disease. Serious gum disease complications are more likely to occur if your gum disease develops into periodontitis. Periodontitis develops when gingivitis is not treated correctly. Periodontitis can lead to severe consequences, including receding gums and tooth loss. Gum disease treatment from a dentist or periodontist is necessary if you have periodontitis.

What are the Symptoms of Periodontal (Gum) Disease?

What does gum disease look like? It can be difficult to self-diagnose gum disease because the early symptoms of gingivitis are mild. However, missing the signs of gum disease can leave you vulnerable to more serious side effects down the road. The symptoms of gum disease can range from painless bleeding while you brush too much more serious issues like bone and tissue loss.

Gingivitis comes with a set of symptoms that include red and swollen gums, gums that bleed when you brush and floss, mild pain, and bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth. Periodontitis can cause any of the symptoms you have with gingivitis, along with several more severe symptoms. Some of the more include pain. At the same time, you eat sensitive teeth, receding gums, gums that have pulled away from your teeth, loose teeth, and changes in the alignment of your bite. Tooth and bone loss are also possible with advanced, untreated periodontitis.

Cause of Gum Disease

Gum disease causes include factors that are easy to fix and issues over which you have no control. The key to preventing and successfully treating gum disease is to control the factors that you can impact day in and day out and get professional help for the other factors.

  • Poor Oral Hygiene – Poor oral hygiene can lead to gingivitis. Plaque and tartar are substances that can build up on your teeth and cause harmful bacteria inside your mouth. The bacteria can attack your gums and lead to symptoms like bleeding, inflammation, and discomfort. If you have gingivitis caused by inadequate oral hygiene, you can reverse it by improving your oral care routine.
  • Immune System Failure – People who are immunocompromised are more likely to develop gum disease. AIDS is an example of an underlying illness that can increase your risk for gum disease.
  • Hormonal Changes – Hormonal changes in your body can disrupt the balance inside your mouth. Pregnancy or taking medications that impact your hormone levels can put you at higher risk for gum disease. Gum disease and pregnancy complications can go hand in hand, so it is important to continue getting routine dental care if you are expecting.
  • Plaque – Plaque is a sticky substance that can develop on your teeth if you are not diligent in your oral care routine. Plaque eventually hardens and turns into tartar. Both plaque and tartar can cause you to develop gum disease.
  • Specific Medication – Some medications can cause dry mouth and cause you to develop gum disease.
  • Genetics – Genetic factors can impact how susceptible you are to developing gum disease. Genetics can also affect what types of treatment you will need to eliminate gum disease.

Other factors that can cause gum disease include smoking, stress, crooked teeth, old defective fillings, and bridges that no longer fit properly. Smoking and stress are factors in your life that you have to address on your own. Crooked teeth, defective fillings, and bridges that no longer fit properly are factors that your dentist can help you manage. Unfortunately, many people find that they have a combination of factors that put them at risk for gum disease. The best approach is to collaborate with your dentist to identify the main issues causing gum disease.

How to Treat Periodontal (Gum) Disease

The first treatment recommendation for gingivitis is to improve your daily oral care routine and commit to professional routine dental cleanings. If your dentist notices early signs of gingivitis, they will likely ask if you floss regularly. If the answer is no, your dentist will encourage you to add flossing to your oral care routine to do a better job of removing plaque and food particles from between your teeth. Other elements of a high-quality oral care routine include:

Treatment for periodontitis is not as simple as improving your daily oral care routine. You will need the help of your dentist to treat periodontitis properly. Dental procedures such as planing and scaling, flap surgery, and bone and tissue grafts may be necessary to stop the damage from periodontitis. Gum disease medication is also a treatment option for some people who have periodontitis.

Gum Disease Medication

Your dentist or gum disease specialist may recommend gum disease medication. Options for gum disease medication include prescription antimicrobial rinse, antiseptic chip, antibiotic gel, antibiotic microspheres, enzyme suppressant, and oral antibiotics. Your dentist or periodontist will determine if you need medication and prescribe you the best fit for your situation.

Preventing Periodontal (Gum) Disease: Good Habits

Good habits are the best way to prevent the most common type of gum disease: gingivitis. Being consistent with the habits that can prevent gingivitis will help you avoid developing periodontitis. Fortunately, none of these habits are complicated or require too much of your time.

  1. Good Oral Hygiene helps keep gum disease-causing factors like plaque, tartar, and bacteria at bay.
  2. Flossing gets to areas that brushing cannot reach and helps remove plaque and food particles from between your teeth and at the gum line.
  3. Regular Dental Check-Ups because it is difficult to get all of the plaque off your teeth 100% of the time. As a result, tartar can form even if you are diligent with your oral care routine. Regular dental check-ups help you eliminate any plaque or tartar buildup that you could not prevent. In addition, regular visits to the dentist will allow the dentist to catch the earliest signs of gum disease.
  4. Control Over Other Pathologies that can Cause Gum Disease issues like hormonal changes and immune deficiencies can make gum disease more likely. However, working with your medical doctor to control or treat other pathologies that can cause gum disease can help keep your gums healthy.

Gum Disease Complications

It is possible to experience serious gum disease complications – especially if you suffer from chronic gum disease. Some of the most serious gum disease complications include:

  • Pregnancy Complications– The oral health of a pregnant mother can impact the health of the baby. Research shows that chronic gum disease during pregnancy can make premature birth more likely
  • Puss – Gum disease can lead to a periodontal abscess. This is a condition where an abscess is painful and can lead to a dental emergency. Puss can be one of the signs that you are dealing with a gum disease complication.
  • Receding Gums – Gum disease can erode your gums. Receding gums can lead to exposed nerves which is painful. In addition, receding gums can reduce the stability of your teeth.
  • Tooth Loss – Gum disease can damage your gums and the surrounding structures of your teeth. Eventually, the damage can cause tooth loss.

Gum Disease Treatment Cost

How much does gum disease treatment cost? If you discover that you have gum disease, getting treatment is the only way to avoid serious consequences. Gum disease treatment cost is low for gingivitis because it involves improving your oral hygiene routine. The main cost of improving your oral care routine is a little extra time in the mornings and evenings. The cost to treat periodontitis can vary significantly. If all you need is a gum disease medication, your cost will be the copay for that medication. If you need a more serious intervention, such as flap surgery, the cost will be higher. To calculate the cost, talk to your dentist or periodontist about the treatment you need and then get in touch with your insurance provider to get an estimate of your coverage.

Find the Best Periodontal (Gum) Disease Specialist Near Me

A general dentist can help you if you are dealing with gingivitis. However, if you experience chronic gum disease or have been diagnosed with periodontitis, you should seek a gum disease specialist. If you're asking how to find a dentist near me, you can find a periodontist near you with the help of the Find a Dentist tool from The Smile Generation. Search based on where you live and the specialist you want to see.