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Could you be suffering from gum disease?

Written by Dr Anitha Anchan |Updated : August 6, 2013 12:22 PM IST

Do you notice blood on your toothbrush every time you brush these days? Or persistent bad breath or taste in your mouth? Are your gums red and swollen? If you've noticed some or all of these symptoms, you may be suffering from gum disease or gingivitis.

It's time you take it more seriously

Gum disease begins with build-up of bacteria in plaque and if not treated it may end with destruction of the tissue that surrounds your teeth. There are a variety of factors including bad oral hygiene which cause plaque and tartar to get deposited on your teeth, causing irritation in the gums. In the early stages, gums become red and swollen, and bleed easily. This condition is called gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease.

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If left untreated the bacteria in the plaque buildup and invade the surrounding bone and supporting structure of the teeth. This leads to periodontitis,a more severe form of gum disease. The gum pulls away from the teeth to form pockets and the bone that supports the teeth is destroyed. Once the tooth loses its support, it becomes less functional ultimately leading to its loss.

Look for the tell-tale signs

Initial stage of gum disease often goes unnoticed. As the disease progresses the colour of the gum changes from a healthy pink to bright red. It becomes swollen and bleeds even with gentle brushing of the teeth. It may sometimes be painful when touched. You may experience persistent bad breath or bad taste in the mouth. In advanced stages, the gum starts receding and detaches from the tooth forming deep pockets between your teeth and gums. You may experience sensitivity in your teeth. Your teeth may appear longer.

As the disease progresses your teeth become loose and may shift. You may feel the changes in the way your teeth fit together upon biting. If you have partial dentures, you may notice changes in their fit too.

A visit to the dentist is warranted

If you notice any of the above signs and symptoms, schedule an appointment with your dentist.He will examine your mouth and teeth with a probe and look for signs of red, swollen gums. Plaque or tartar may be present at the gum line. He may measure the depth of the pocket below your gums with a probe. The larger and deeper the pocket, the more severe is the disease. He may also look for signs of teeth sensitivity and mobility. Dental x-ray may be taken to look for severity of bone destruction.

Treatment options depend on the stage of the disease. Your dentist will also take into account your response to previous treatments, if any, and your overall health. The main goal of treatment of gum disease is to reduce inflammation, infection and depth of pockets, stop disease progression and help reattachment of healthy gums to teeth. Treatments can range from nonsurgical methods to control growth of bacteria (like professional cleaning or scaling) to surgical restoration of supportive tissues like the bone, gums and periodontium.

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