Welcome back to my article series about the Sleep Dentistry Defined approach to gum disease treatment and restoration. In case you missed it, last time I briefly introduced the series. Today, I’ll be sharing the basics of gum disease with you – what it is, who it affects, and common symptoms. Then in future installments I’ll talk more about our unique approach to gum restoration, and finally, I’ll share one of the key pieces of technology that we use here at Sleep Dentistry Defined to restore gum and bone tissue lost to gum disease.

What is Gum Disease?

Gum disease – also called Periodontitis – affects millions of people in the United States every year. Gum disease is the result of plaque spreading below the gum line, which allows bacteria to create toxins that agitate the gums. The result is chronic inflammation of the gums, which is the result of your body trying to fight back against these toxins. As you can imagine, this takes a huge toll on your immune system! And if left untreated for too long, the gums – and even the bone in your teeth – will deteriorate until eventually the affected teeth become so compromised that they need to be removed and gum tissue surgically replaced.

Who it Affects

Gum disease is most commonly found in older adults, but it is also common in patients who have other systemic diseases that may not even be in the mouth but make dental care more difficult. I’ve talked about this many times before on AM Northwest and in other articles – your overall health affects your teeth – and vice versa! And if you are fighting heart disease, Crohn’s disease or other health issues, these can take a toll on your dental health, either directly due to or because of the medications you take to treat these other diseases. High blood sugar, or even some medications that treat diabetes can cause severe dry mouth. Tremors caused by Parkinson’s disease can make properly brushing and flossing your teeth nearly impossible. Gum disease occurs when bacteria make their way beneath your gumline, and unfortunately these issues can make it that much easier for bacteria to thrive!

Common Symptoms

Unfortunately, the symptoms of gum disease can often be hard to spot. Gingivitis is the swelling of gums and is a precondition of gum disease. But gum disease itself happens below the gumline when pockets of bacteria form between your teeth and gums. That’s why I and my hygienists will point out gingivitis to you when we see it, and encourage better brushing and flossing – we don’t want a mild case of gingivitis (which is very common and easily treatable and reversible) to turn into gum disease!

Receding gums, or excessive bleeding of the gums while brushing, flossing or even eating can be a warning sign that you may have gum disease. You may also have one or multiple teeth that feel loose. Sometimes, patients even complain of a changed bite or difference in the way their teeth fit together, because the teeth have shifted due to gum and bone loss. If you have one of these symptoms, it may be gum disease, and you should schedule a checkup with your dentist to find out what’s wrong.

What’s Next?

The great news about gum disease is that it is fully treatable! Depending on the severity of the disease, treatment may not even involve surgery – and even if it does, advances in dental technology mean you can fully restore gum and bone tissue that have been lost to the disease.

In my next article, I’ll talk about the options we have for treating gum disease and fully restoring damaged gum and bone tissue. I hope you’ve enjoyed this installment of the series! I love sharing my knowledge with my patients, and of course I’m also happy to answer specific questions you may have on the phone or during your next office visit.

-Dr Heath Lampee, DMD