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Are There Different Types of Gum Disease?
Classifications of gum disease can be confusing for many patients. Left untreated, this condition can result in pain and tooth loss. Proper home dental care can help prevent gum disease, but for some it may be the result of other factors.
Defining gum disease
Gum disease in its mildest form is called gingivitis, but it can develop into periodontitis if left untreated. There are many forms of periodontitis, but they are all caused by the same thing: Bacteria buildup between gums and teeth. Learn the symptoms of gum disease and the importance of prevention.
Some patients may be more at risk than others. Various factors include smoking habits, family history, diet and age. Whatever the cause, the symptoms are the same. These are some of the most common:
- Mild pain or discomfort
- Teeth that look longer due to a receding gum line
- Fragile gums that bleed easily
- Red or swollen gums
- Bad breath that will not go away
- Differences in the fit of teeth when biting
Gingivitis can be prevented with thorough daily home care. Gum disease is caused by bacteria, therefore brushing teeth after eating can prevent it; for the places where a brush cannot reach, flossing is recommended. A good dentist-approved mouthwash can also be used as a final step in a patient's daily routine. If home care is not achieving the desired results or it advances to periodontitis, patients may need to see a periodontist for specialized help.
Advanced gum disease
Advanced gum disease occurs when the bacteria in plaque grows deep in the gums below the teeth and causes the production of toxins. The toxins cause the body to respond to a chronic inflammatory stimulus. This can result in the loss of teeth along with large amounts of gum and bone tissue. According to the 2017 classification by the American Academy of Periodontology, there are three main types of periodontitis.
1. Chronic periodontitis
The most common form of advanced gum disease is chronic periodontitis. It mostly affects adults and usually progresses slowly in the supporting tissues of teeth. If it is allowed to continue unchecked, it can result in gum recession and loss of teeth.
2. Necrotizing periodontal disease
Necrotizing periodontal disease can occur in patients suffering from malnutrition, immunosupression, HIV and other systemic diseases. The infection manifests in lesions that cause the premature death of cells (necrosis) in the alveolar bone, gums and periodontal ligament. It can cause rapid tooth loss, bleeding and severe pain.
3. Periodontitis as a manifestation of a systemic disease
Periodontitis occurs most often in adults, but if it occurs in children or adolescents it is probably the manifestation of a systemic disease. Diseases that can cause it include diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease, genetic disorders and hematologic disorders such as leukemia. Communication between the dentist, the patient and the patient's physician is critical to ensuring successful treatment of patients with hematologic disorders.
Left untreated, gum disease can cause serious pain and discomfort as well as tooth loss. Patients who do not practice daily home care are at risk for developing this condition. Specialized treatment may be required for patients with periodontitis related to other systemic diseases.
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