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Gingivitis and Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease is caused by a bacterial infection in the mouth, which if not properly treated may end up destroying the tissues surrounding your teeth, causing tooth loss. Gingivitis, which is characterized by gum inflammation often precedes gum disease, though not in all cases.

During the early stages of gingivitis, plaque build-up causes bacteria to grow, which causes the gums to become inflamed. They often bleed when one is brushing their teeth. However, at this stage, the teeth are still planted in the jawbone regardless of the amount of irritation. No tissue damage has occurred, and one should immediately see an experienced Everett gum disease specialist before further damage occurs. If left untreated, it advances to periodontitis, where the bone and gums pull away from the teeth forming pockets. These pockets or spaces collect debris and become infected, spreading and growing below the gum line.

Other Causes

Although plaque is the primary cause of the disease, other factors that can contribute include hormonal changes, illness, medication, bad habits or poor oral hygiene and family history. During pregnancy, menopause, puberty and monthly menstruation, hormonal changes occur, making the gum more sensitive and easier for gingivitis to develop. Illnesses such as cancer and HIV that interfere with the immune system may affect the condition of your gums. Patients with diabetes are also at a higher risk of developing periodontal diseases since diabetes affects the body’s ability to use blood sugar.

Some medications can affect your dental health, especially those that lessen the flow of saliva. Saliva protects the mouth and teeth. Other drugs, such as anticonvulsant medication causes the abnormal growth of gum tissue. Additionally, bad habits such as smoking and poor oral hygiene such as not brushing or flossing, make it easier for gingivitis to develop and harder for the gum to repair itself. Family history can also contribute to the development of gingivitis.


Gum disease may progress silently and painlessly, showing few obvious signs. Common symptoms that you should pay attention to include bleeding during and after brushing, tender and red gums, persistent bad breath or taste in the mouth, receding gums, or shifting teeth, and formation of deep pockets between teeth/gums, among others. In some people, only a few teeth may be affected, and others may not notice anything at all. Only a dentist can certainly recognize and determine the extent of gum disease. During the dental exam, the dentist will check the gums, teeth, and jaw bone.

Treatment and Prevention

The objective of gum disease treatment is to reattach the gum to the teeth, reduce swelling and depth of the pockets, and reduce the risk of further infection. The treatment options will vary depending on the stage of the disease, how you responded to earlier forms of treatment, and your overall health. Treatment options include non-surgical therapies, which try to control bacterial growth, to surgery, which restores the supportive tissues.

In nearly all cases, gingivitis and progression of periodontal disease can be stopped with proper plaque control practices. Plaque control involves daily brushing and flossing, as well as professional oral cleaning at least twice a year. Brushing eliminates plaque from the teeth surface, and flossing removes food particles under the gum line and between teeth. Bacteria can be reduced using antibacterial mouth rinses.