What is gum disease and how do I know if I have it?

Gum disease is a silent disease. Many people are unaware that they have it. Gum disease affects the gum tissue that surrounds your teeth. The gum tissue becomes inflamed and swollen. This increase in gum tissue allows increased amounts of bacteria to live between the tooth, the gum tissue and the supporting bone. Prolonged periods of exposure to bacteria result in bone loss. This bone loss leads to a loosening of the teeth and if left untreated, eventual tooth loss. Gum disease is irreversible. Once the supporting bone has been lost, it will not grow back.

Treatment of gum disease varies depending on the severity. If caught early, a non-surgical approach followed by good home care can stop the disease in progress. More advanced stages of gum disease can require surgery to help eliminate the swollen, diseased gum tissue. Gum disease is widespread and common. Periodontists are dentists that specialize in treating this disease.

How do I know if I have gum disease? If you have bleeding gums, a constant bad taste or bad breath, loose teeth, or receding gums, these are all indications that you may have gum disease. Your dentist should routinely check your gum health at each check-up. The best way to prevent gum disease is with routine, professionally dental cleanings and with good home care with regular flossing and brushing.


- Written by the Salem Times Register for Dr. Caroline Wallace.