Unlike a common cold or flu, you can’t wait out a dental disease by treating its symptoms and hoping that it goes away soon. Tooth decay and gum disease, the two most common forms of chronic dental disease, are progressive infections, and will continue to grow worse the longer they remain untreated. In the case of gum disease, neglect can lead to the destruction of your smile’s foundation; in fact, advanced gum disease is the leading cause of adult tooth loss in the United States.
Gum Disease and Your Smile
Like tooth decay (the disease that causes cavities), gum disease is a bacterial infection that results when dental plaque is allowed to remain undisturbed for too long. The colorless biofilm is formed when oral bacteria gather in force, and helps protect the germs from the mouth’s defenses, like saliva. Some microbes directly attack the soft periodontal tissue surrounding the roots of healthy teeth, and as the infection progresses, gums and eventually the jawbone deteriorate until they can no longer support all of a patient’s teeth.
Pay Close Attention to the Signs
Though gum disease can sneak up on you as it slowly develops, the infection leaves traces that warn you of its presence. For instance, redness, swelling, and bleeding marks the onset of gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease. However, the symptoms don’t typically include discomfort, which can cause some patients to ignore the condition. When detected early, gingivitis can be reversed with thorough periodontal treatment and a more effective dental hygiene routine. Advanced gum disease may require periodontal surgery to control the infection and allow the gums to heal, and in severe cases, a gum graft may be needed to restore irreversibly damaged gum tissue.