Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is an infection of the gums that surround your teeth. It is one of the primary causes of tooth loss in adults. Because it is virtually pain-free, many patients do not know they have the disease. During each regular checkup, we will check for signs of periodontal disease by measuring the space between your teeth and gums.
What causes gum disease?
Gum disease is caused by a buildup of plaque, a sticky form of bacteria that forms on the teeth. If the plaque is not removed by flossing, brushing, and regular dental checkups, it will continue to build up and create toxins that can damage the gums.
Periodontal disease forms just below the gum line and creates small pockets that separate the gums from the teeth. Periodontal disease has two stages: gingivitis and periodontitis.
- Gingivitis — This is the early stage of gum disease, when the gums become red and swollen, and bleed easily. At this stage, the disease is treatable and can usually be eliminated by daily brushing and flossing.
- Periodontitis — If left untreated, gingivitis will advance into periodontitis. The gums and bone that support the teeth will become seriously and irreversibly damaged. Gums infected with periodontitis can cause teeth to become loose, fall out, or require removal by a dentist.
Certain factors can increase a patient’s risk of developing periodontal disease, including
- Smoking or using chewing tobacco
- Certain types of medication such as steroids, anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, calcium channel blockers, and oral contraceptives
- Bridges that no longer fit properly
- Crooked teeth
- Old fillings
While it is possible to have periodontal disease and not know it, some symptoms can include
- Gums that bleed easily
- Red, swollen, tender gums
- Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
- Persistent bad breath or unpleasant taste in the mouth
- Pus between your teeth and gums
- Loose or separating permanent teeth
- Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- Any change in the fit of partial dentures
Sharp Pain when Biting Down on Food
If you experience persistent, sharp pain when eating, you could have a chip, fracture, or loose filling that is causing pressure to irritate your tooth’s nerves. When the outer enamel and dentin layers of the tooth are cracked or broken, chewing can cause great irritation to the tooth’s nerves. When biting pressure is released, the crack can close quickly, resulting in a momentary, sharp pain.
What to do: Visit our office as soon as possible. If the tooth is not repaired, it will not only hurt during chewing but can also become sensitive to extreme temperatures. Cracks and fractures can lead to infection of the pulp tissue, even spreading to the bone and gum tissue that surround the tooth. In that case, a root canal will be the option to save the tooth.
Constant and Severe Pain, Pressure, Swelling, and Sensitivity
Severe and constant tooth pain is the most common symptom of an abscess. When a tooth becomes abscessed, it means that the pulp is inflamed and infected. Left untreated, an abscess can progress to a serious, life-threatening bacterial infection that can spread throughout the entire body.
Signs You May Have an Abscess
- Teeth grinding at night
- Pain when chewing
- Red, swollen gums
- Swollen neck or jaw
- Bitter taste in the mouth or bad breath
What to do: Contact our office immediately. If your tooth has an abscess, your treatment options consist of root canal therapy to clean and remove the infection, antibiotic therapy, or endodontic surgery. This will prevent the infection from spreading further into the jaw and bone tissue.
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