Here’s a common misconception that many have – if I’m cavity-free, I won’t have gum disease.
However, contrary to popular belief, there is no direct link between both dental issues. In fact, gum disease may be more common than you think. The Singapore Burden of Disease Study 2010 estimates that 51% of Singapore citizens spend 25 to 44 years of their entire lives with gum disease, and 39% of Singapore citizens spend 45 to 65 years of their lives with gum disease.
Over 20 years is a long time to live with gum disease. Surely, most people would have the common sense to seek gum infection therapy at some point. Except, maybe they aren’t even aware they have the condition.
What Causes Gum Disease?
Gum disease, also known as gingivitis, is an inflammation of the gums that is usually caused by a bacterial infection. This can be a result of bits of food and plaque being trapped between the teeth and gums. If plaque is not removed, it can cause the gums (gingivae) to pull away from the teeth, forming pockets where more bacteria can collect.
While typically this can be attributed to poor oral hygiene, another less-known factor that can cause gum disease is impacted wisdom teeth. When there is insufficient space in the mouth for wisdom teeth to develop, they may become impacted. This can cause the wisdom tooth to grow towards the other teeth at irregular angles. When this happens, it is more difficult to clean and brush the teeth, and food gets trapped more easily, increasing the risk of gum disease.
How Do I Tell If I Have A Gum Infection?
If you suspect that you might have a gum infection, here are some symptoms to look for:
- Bright red or purple gums
- Tender gums that may be painful to the touch
- Bleeding from the gums when brushing or flossing
- Halitosis, or bad breath
- Inflammation, or swollen gums
- Receding gums
- Soft gums
If you do notice any of these signs, it is best to consult a dentist as it is crucial to treat the gum disease in the earliest stage possible. If left untreated, you run the risk of developing a more severe form of gum disease called periodontitis, which can lead to the loss of teeth, bone loss, and a lower gum line.
Being Cavity-Free Doesn’t Indicate You’re Risk-Free From Gum Disease
Even if you’re cavity-free, it doesn’t mean you’re not at risk of gum disease. This is because different bacteria are usually responsible for cavities and gum disease.
In other words, the bacteria that cause cavities don’t cause gum disease and vice versa. As such, it’s possible to have gum disease even if you don’t have cavities.
Good oral hygiene habits to prevent gum disease
Here are some tips to keep gum disease at bay:
- Brush your teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste.
- Floss your teeth every day.
- Visit the dentist regularly so that your dentist can look out for warning signs.
How Is gum Infection Treated At The Dentist?
During a dental exam, your gums will be probed with a small ruler. This probing is a way to check for inflammation and to measure any pockets around your teeth. A normal pocket depth is 1 to 3 millimeters. Your dentist may also order X-rays to check for bone loss.
Talk to your dentist about risk factors for gum disease as well as your symptoms. If you are diagnosed with gum disease, you will be referred to a periodontist. A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in the treatment of gum disease.
There are several techniques that can be used to deep clean your teeth without surgery. They all remove plaque and tartar to prevent gum irritation.
The first kind of treatment is scaling, which removes tartar from above and below the gum line.
Root planing smooths rough spots and removes plaque and tartar from the root surface.
Additionally, lasers may be used to remove tartar with less pain and bleeding than scaling and root planing.
In some cases, your dentist will prescribe antibiotics to help with persistent gum infections that haven’t responded to cleanings. The antibiotic might be in the form of a mouthwash, gel, or an oral tablet or capsule.
In serious cases, surgery may be carried out.
Early detection is key to controlling and treating gum disease before it becomes worse. If you suspect that you might have gum disease, it’s best to go see a dentist.
- American Dental Association (ADA) Division of Science. (2011). What is gum disease? American Dental Association (ADA) Division of Science, 142(11), 111. https://jada.ada.org/article/S0002-8177(14)61881-X/fulltext#relatedArticles
- Healthline Editorial Team. (2019, October 31). Gum Disease: Causes, Risk Factors and Symptoms. Healthline. Retrieved November 26, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/health/gingivitis#treatment
- Impacted wisdom teeth – Symptoms and causes. (2018, March 10). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved November 26, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/wisdom-teeth/symptoms-causes/syc-20373808
- Newman, T. (2018, January 5). Gingivitis: Causes, symptoms, and treatment. Medical News Today. Retrieved November 26, 2021, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/241721#signs-and-symptoms