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What is Gum Disease?


Gum disease... We're sure you've heard this phrase before, maybe on a toothpaste commercial or perhaps (hopefully not) you heard your Dentist or Dental Hygienist mention it. In our experience we feel like many of our patients don't treat gum disease with a lot of seriousness, perhaps its because it happens inside the mouth where the average person probably doesn't notice it and because it normally doesn't really hurt (possibly only when you're getting your teeth cleaned). However, even if it doesn't hurt and no one can see it, it's likely that some of them might be able to smell it... If you don't go to the Dentist regularly then you may not be aware if you have it or not, but if your gums bleed when you're brushing or flossing correctly and gently, then this might be a sign that you have gum disease.



What is Gum Disease?

Gum disease generally refers to two different types of gum infections that happen in the mouth, these are gingivitis and periodontitis. The source of both of these diseases are bacteria that live around the tooth and in the periodontal pocket (in between the gums and the tooth/root). They both generate inflammation of the gums and cause them to appear swollen, red and bleed, which is common when brushing and flossing.


So... What's the difference between Gingivitis and Periodontitis?

Both of these diseases fairly deserve a blog for themselves, but here is a quick and simple way that we describe the differences to our patients.


Gingivitis is the initial stage of gum disease, you can think of it as stage 1 of gum disease and the less harmful of the both. As mentioned previously, gingivitis is caused by plaque (a sticky film, usually white or yellowish that is made up of millions of bacteria) which triggers an inflammatory response by your gums. As a result of this inflammation the gums tend to swell up and appear more red in color. This is your body's attempt to help fight and get rid of the bacteria and its toxins that are harming and irritating your gums. At this point all the effects caused by this gum disease are still reversible if proper dental care is taken, such as getting regular teeth cleanings along with daily brushing and flossing.


Gingivitis literally means "inflammation of the gingiva (gums)" and it is more common than you may think. According to a study done by SAGE Journals, about 47.2% of adults aged 30 years or old had some type of gum disease, most of it being Gingivitis. That's nearly 1 out of 2 people had gingivitis or periodontitis, which is quite a high number.


Periodontitis is what Gingivitis may lead to if not treated properly. You can think of periodontitis as stage 2 of gum disease. It is also caused by plaque and induces inflammation of the gums, but unlike it "predecessor" this disease causes damage to periodontium (tissue that supports the tooth structure, such as the bone and gingival tissue). The destruction of these supporting tissues causes the inner gum and bone that surrounds roots to "pull away" from the tooth, creating periodontal pockets as a result. The damage to the bone is irreversible and if not treated properly excessive bone loss can eventually lead to the loss of the whole tooth.

It is important to understand that not all cases of gingivitis will lead to periodontitis, but we'll talk about why this is the case on a future blog dedicated specifically to Periodontitis.


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