Does Gum Disease Cause Long-term Problems?

added on: September 9, 2019
Stages of Periodontal disease
Stages of Gum Disease

You’re doing your standard morning routine: showering, drinking a cup of coffee, and brushing your teeth. Everything seems normal until you notice a little bit of blood on your toothbrush. A closer look in the mirror yields alarming results: your gums are bleeding.

Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence for millions of Americans every day. It’s so common that a lot of people don’t even consider bleeding gums abnormal or upsetting at all. After all, a few spots of blood on your floss isn’t a big deal, right?

Wrong. If you’re bleeding when flossing or brushing, you need to schedule an appointment to visit our office. Periodontal disease (aka, gum disease) is no laughing matter and can have serious, long-term effects. Patients who leave their periodontal disease untreated are at a greater risk of certain kinds of cancers and will undoubtedly suffer a multitude of oral health issues including:

  • Gum recession
  • Loose teeth
  • Bone loss

Why you need healthy gums

You probably don’t look at your gums very often but that doesn’t mean they aren’t an important part of your smile. Your gums hold your teeth in place — without them, you wouldn’t have any teeth. Because they’re made of tissue, your gums are not as resilient as your teeth. If not taken care of properly, they become susceptible to bacteria and disease. When bacteria get underneath the gums, causing inflammation and bleeding, gingivitis and eventually periodontal disease manifest.

What is gingivitis?

At first, gum disease presents only mild symptoms. Doctors call this beginning stage gingivitis. The gums will turn red and they may be a little swollen. Brushing or flossing will cause them to bleed easily. A lot of people ignore gingivitis because there isn’t a lot of pain associated with it. Bleeding gums may be a little sensitive but, for most patients, it’s a painless condition.

Compared to the later stages of gum disease, gingivitis is easy to treat. Brushing and flossing more and using a special anti-bacterial toothpaste should cure it within a few weeks. Problems arise when patients get gingivitis but don’t do anything about it. That’s when gingivitis becomes periodontal disease.

What’s periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease is the later stage of gum disease. At this stage, bacteria will begin to grow underneath the gums, forcing them to recede from the teeth. Patients sometimes think their teeth are getting “longer” but in reality, their gums are getting smaller. The more the gums recede, the higher the likelihood of tooth loss. Without the gums holding the teeth in, they can become loose and, in severe cases, fall out.

Patients who wait for years and years to get their periodontal disease treated typically have drastic gum recession and bone loss. Dr. Rob uses bone grafts, gum grafts, and dental implants (all of which require surgery) to treat severe, late-stage gum disease. For periodontal patients, the longer you wait to get treatment, the fewer treatment options you’ll have.

chart showing healthy gums compared to gums at various stages of gum disease
Healthy Gums compared to Gums with Gingivitis and Periodontitis

How can the dentist treat periodontal disease?

If you have periodontal disease and your hygienist catches it, they’ll perform what we call a “deep cleaning” or a scaling treatment. During a deep cleaning, the hygienist removes as much of the bacteria from the gums as she can using a very small instrument called a hydro dental scaler. The scaler uses a high-powered stream of water to blast away bacteria build-up in and around the gums. As you probably assumed, scaling is uncomfortable so we always give patients local anesthetic to numb the gums prior.

The procedure is common but it does add another step to the average dental visit which no one wants. Plus, most deep cleanings don’t get all of the bacteria so patients have to come back for follow-up perio-maintenance appointments.

Save yourself some time and money by getting regular dental cleanings every six months and taking care of your teeth at home. You’ll thank us in the long run!