Dental Care

Gum Disease - Take it Seriously

When you visit your dentist, it's possible he will tell you that you've developed gum disease.  Just how serious is this, and what does it involve?

This disease, just like anything, ranges in severity.  Simple inflammation of the gum tissue, more commonly known as gingivitis, can be annoying but easily treated. 

If left untreated, however, it will turn into more serious disease that involves not just the gums but also the bones of your jaw -and beyond. 


If you have the mildest form of gum disease, you might not even know it.  It's called gingivitis; "gingiva" is from the Latin for gums, and "itis" means (as you're probably aware) any kind of inflammation. 

The gingiva part actually refers to the fibers in your gums that help to hold your teeth in place. 

Most often it occurs from a lack of attention to good oral hygiene.  Some people don't brush correctly, or they fail to floss. Others wait too long between dental visits.  No matter what the reason, plaque accumulates and the problem develops.

In some cases people develop gum disease because of the medications they are taking.  A condition called "gingival overgrowth" occurs as a side effect in some patients who are taking seizure control medications such as phenytoin (Dilantin). 

Other medications that can cause this include immunosuppressive agents such as those used for immune disorders or after organ transplantation.  Those who take calcium channel blockers (Verapamil, Nifedipine or Procardia, or other medications) used to treat heart conditions are also at higher risk. 

Other medications used for birth control, treatment of hypertension, or chemotherapy agents can cause problems in that area. 

Yet other medications cause dry mouth, and with a decreased flow of saliva you become more prone to both gum disease and tooth decay.  You can see why it's so important to update your medication history with your dentist at every visit. 

Many people who develop gum disease first become wary when they brush their teeth and see blood in the sink when they rinse. At this point if you take a good look at your gums you might notice that they appear to be slightly reddened or swollen. You know, then, that it's past due time to schedule your dental checkup!

Under normal circumstances -especially if your gingivitis is not the result of medications- you can reverse it by proper brushing and flossing. 

If you believe your gum disease problem is related to medications, you can still beat it easily if you follow the oral hygiene regimen prescribed by your dentist. 


Without treatment, however, gingivitis can develop into something much more serious called periodontitis

The word means inflammation of the tissues around the teeth, and it means that your condition has advanced to the point that gum tissue has pulled away from the teeth. 

Once the gum tissues recede from the teeth, little pockets form that are a ripe breeding ground for bacteria and infection.  Even though your body responds by sending antibodies or white blood cells to the area to fight off infection, toxins accumulate in these little pockets. 

Collagen, a protein that is present in the connective tissues of your gums, is affected. The connective tissues themselves that hold your teeth in place can be weakened and destroyed. 

It gets worse.  Affected by the growth of bacteria and the aggressive response of your body's immune system, the alveolar bones of your jaws -the mandible and maxilla- deteriorate.  Bone loss occurs.  Eventually with this gum disease, left untreated, your teeth will loosen.  One worse-case scenario is that your dentist will have to extract teeth even if they've never had cavities in them. 

And it gets worse yet!  Imagine that you have an infected sore on your arm but you just let it fester.  Eventually, the infection will spread throughout your body, right?  The same thing happens with periodontitis. 

Your body enters a state of constant low-grade infection, and the infection from the gum disease spreads to your organs and joints.  If you have weak heart valves, infection will go there.  If you've had a joint replacement performed, expect infection to pinpoint that area.  Wherever your body is weakest, infection will attack it.


Gum disease symptoms are better taken for what they are: Warning signals to take action, improving your oral hygiene and getting a new checkup from your dentist.

Researchers are also associating an increase in plaque within your arteries with increased amounts of plaque in your mouth. 

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) reports that people with severe periodontitis are four times more likely to suffer myocardial infarction -heart attack- than those with clean gums. 

Gingivitis and periodontitis are not conditions that you want to ignore.  In many cases your dentist can perform various treatments easily and effectively, especially in an early stage.

Did you know that tea tree oil is a all natural treatment that works for most people with this condition?

There is a range of steps for self treatment which you can try out with almost no additional cost or effort.

In other cases, the dentist might discover that your gum disease is symptomatic of a more serious underlying condition such as diabetes. 

That's why you should see your dentist at the first sign of gum problems.


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