Understanding Gum Diseases

Cross section showing parts of tooth.
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Gum-related diseases are one of the most common complaints faced by dentists across the world. It is generally believed that gums are very vulnerable to infection if proper oral hygiene is not maintained. One of earliest signs of a developing gum disease is the presence of thin, film-like covering that is present along the base of the teeth, around the upper section of the gums. This is caused by bacterial infections and the film-like coating is the plaque that acts as the epicenter for most dental problems. Though plaque can be easily removed with daily flossing and proper brushing, it builds-up very quickly and infects the gum tissue. Though the term ‘gum disease’ conventionally refers to any diseased condition of the gums, there are various stages of gum diseases interpreted by an attending, dental care physician. These stages include:

Stage 1—Gingivitis

Most dental care specialists regard this as the earliest stage of a developing gum disease. Gingivitis refers to the inflammation of the gums. There are no set parameters to define the degree of inflammation. The swelling could be severe to precipitate the need for prescribing pain-killers or a mild one that can be treated with gum-paint like ointments. This is also the most treatable stage of gum diseases. Gingivitis usually sets-in when the toxins leached from the plaque enter the teeth and the tissue of the gums. Gingivitis can compromise the strength of the gums. As a result, bleeding gums are regarded as a sure indicator of gingivitis.

Stage 2—Periodontitis

This refers to a far more serious condition wherein the inflammation spreads across the surrounding surface of the teeth, including the gums. Here, the strength of the gums to hold the teeth is compromised to a certain extent. Thus, slight loosening of the teeth might be observed. In more server cases, small sections of the gum may begin to erode upon brushing. This creates small, hard-to-detect voids wherein the plaque and microscopic bits of food get collected. This leads to formation of pus-pockets along the gums. At this stage, dental care may include a heavy usage of pain-killers and antibiotics to arrest the extent of infection.

Stage 3—Progressive Periodontitis

If the problem isn’t resolved at stage two, discussed above, the overall health of the teeth undergoes severe deterioration. Patients suffering from this condition might find it painful to even chew their food. Their ability to tolerate hot or cold foods is reduced drastically. The patient might also complain about sudden episodes of numbing pain in one side of the mouth. Dental treatment at this stage might include removal of the affected tooth to restrict the aggressively-spreading infection for saving the surrounding teeth.

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