Gum diseases, also known as periodontal diseases, are bacterial infections involving the gums and sometimes the bone that surrounds a tooth. Gum diseases can affect one tooth or many teeth, and they range from gum irritation (gingivitis) to severe infection (periodontitis). (1), (2)
Check out these details on common and serious gum diseases:
- Gingivitis: Gingivitis is the earliest and mildest form of the gum diseases, and it is characterized by redness and swelling of the gums. Unlike more serious gum diseases, gingivitis rarely requires surgical treatment, and it can usually be managed with a professional dental cleaning followed by attention to a regular oral care routine.
- Chronic Periodontitis: Chronic periodontitis is the most common of the full-fledged gum diseases. The primary symptoms include receding gums and the formation of pockets between the gums and the teeth. Chronic periodontitis occurs more often in adults than in children; a majority of individuals with this condition are older than 35 years.
- Aggressive Periodontitis: In general, gum diseases are rare in children, but some children (and adults) develop aggressive periodontitis, even if they are otherwise healthy. Aggressive periodontitis can occur in children as young as 3 years, and sometimes even younger. By age 20, individuals with especially aggressive gum diseases can lose teeth. Gum diseases that are subtypes of aggressive periodontitis include a condition in adolescents (sometimes referred to as localized juvenile periodontitis) that involves an over-colonization of bacteria. Another less common condition, sometimes referred to as prepubertal periodontitis, affects young children shortly after their primary teeth appear. Children with gum diseases might not complain of tooth pain, but common symptoms of gum diseases in children include excess plaque; red, swollen, or bleeding gums; and the presence of pus and unpleasant breath.
- Necrotizing Periodontitis: Of all the gum diseases, this type may be the most severe. Also known as acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis, the condition can destroy tissues, ligaments, and bones in the mouth. Necrotizing periodontitis is most common in people who smoke or in individuals who are malnourished or who have conditions that compromise their immune systems, such as HIV/AIDS. (1), (2), (3)
Treatment of Gum Diseases
The treatment of gum diseases may be surgical or non-surgical, depending on the severity of the disease and the patient’s preferences.
- Non-surgical: Non-surgical options for the treatment of gum diseases include antibiotics and a non-surgical deep-cleaning procedure called tooth scaling and root planing that removes tartar and plaque from below the gum line. Some limited research suggests that lasers can be used in addition to tooth scaling and root planing to make the procedure more effective, but there is not enough evidence to recommend a specific wavelength or type of laser for the treatment of gum diseases.
- Surgical: Surgical treatments for gum diseases include procedures to reduce pockets that have formed at the gum line, procedures to regenerate lost bone and tissue, procedures to remove excess gum tissue to expose more of the tooth surface, and procedures to graft soft tissue onto the gums to cover exposed bone and prevent tooth loss. (4), (5)
The successful treatment of any gum diseases depends in part on getting regular dental checkups and following a complete oral hygiene routine. And if you smoke, quit. Tobacco use can interfere with the recovery from gum diseases and increase the risk of recurrence. (6)