Gum disease, otherwise known as periodontis or periodontal disease, is a bacterial infection and inflammation of the gum tissues in the mouth. It may be preceded by gingivitis. As gum disease progresses, the bacteria causes damage to the connective tissue and bone of the teeth, leading to destruction of the teeth and possible tooth loss.

Signs of Gum Disease

Some signs of infection of the gums include the receding of the bone and possibly the gums. Bone recession is not visible to the naked eye and its detection requires professional examination by a dentist. Sometimes the root of the tooth may be exposed, in some cases resulting in heightened tooth sensitivity. Moreover, gum disease can cause pockets to form between the tooth and gum, and pus may be produced.

Some common signs of gum disease are:

  • Sensitive, red, or swollen gums
  • Gums bleeding during tooth brushing or otherwise
  • Loose or shifted teeth
  • Bad breath

Causes of Gum Disease

There are several causes of gum disease and steps to correct and control each one:

Improper Dental Hygiene: Daily dental care and regular professional dental cleanings remove plaque that adheres to the teeth and gums. If plaque remains and accumulates, this allows bacteria to deposit and cause gingivitis, which may in time lead to gum disease.

Medical Conditions: Diseases such as diabetes and kidney disease affect the body’s natural ability to produce sugar, and may be a factor in the development of gum disease. The Center for Disease Control has discovered a link between certain illnesses (including stroke, heart attack, and diabetes) and gum disease. In addition, some medications are believed to cause overgrown gums, which are more susceptible to bacteria, and therefore gum disease.

Organic Changes in the Mouth: During puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, metabolism and hormonal changes may take place, which produce organic changes in the mouth, increasing the risk of gum disease.

Poor Functional Habits: Teeth clenching or grinding may damage the surrounding tissue and may increase the risk of gum disease.

Saliva Flow Inhibitors: A chronically dry mouth may encourage the development of gum disease. Aging as well as the intake of particular medications can produce dry mouth syndrome (xerostomia), reducing saliva flow and potentially leading to gum disease.

Treatment for Gum Disease

Treatment for gum disease differs, depending on the severity of the condition. Your dentist can conduct an evaluation to develop a treatment plan for your particular needs. He or she will assess the buildup of plaque and the extent of the damage caused by gum disease.

Through a professional cleaning, your dentist will remove calculus or tartar deposits. The cleaning may make use of deep scaling and root planing procedures after a local anesthetic is administered. Antibiotics can eliminate bacteria residing in the pocketed areas of the gums. As a follow up treatment at home, your dentist may recommend the use of a medicated mouthwash.

Advanced Treatments

Tissue Regeneration

A technique called tissue regeneration may be used to treat destroyed bone. The procedure involves grafting the bone to encourage regeneration of the bone. Soft tissue grafts may also be used to strengthen thin gums. In guided tissue regeneration, your dentist may insert a membrane to aid in the bone regeneration process.

Surgery

Surgery may be required in some cases to help prevent tooth loss resulting from gum disease. Periodontal flap surgery may be performed, reducing the pocket gap between the teeth and gums. If the jaw bone has craters promoting the growth of bacteria, bone surgery may be performed to reshape the bone, helping to prevent bacterial growth and reducing risk of gum disease.

Laser Therapy

Laser therapy may be effective in reducing the gap between the teeth and gums. There is no research, however, supporting the notion that laser therapy helps to rebuild damaged connective tissue resulting from gum disease.

Cost of Gum Disease Treatment

Gum disease treatment may cost anywhere from $500 to $10,000. The wide range in cost is due to the variations in severity of the disease and the corresponding treatment required. For instance, your dentist may refer you to a periodontist who has greater expertise in performing more advanced procedures in treating your gum disease.
Other factors involved in the cost are the technology used in the procedure, the location of your dentist, and your dental insurance coverage.