Hidden, Untreated Gum Disease: Is It The Cause Of Your Red, Tender Gums?

If your gums look red and swollen, you may wonder what's wrong with them and if you can do anything to make them look better. You most likely have a mild form of gum disease, or gingivitis. Although it doesn't happen with everyone, some people can experience gingivitis and not even know it. In many cases, untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis, the most severe form of gum disease, which can lead to tooth loss and other life-changing problems. Here's how untreated gum disease affects you and what you can do to stop it.

What Happens If You Don't Treat Your Mild Gum Disease?

Gingivitis isn't something to ignore or take lightly. Once the condition begins, it can create a host of problems for you if it goes untreated, including gum recession, which develops when gum tissue pulls back from the crowns of your teeth and exposes their roots. Your gums should fit snugly over the necks of your teeth crowns. The snug position keeps teeth in place and prevents bacteria from entering the tissues that support them. Receding gums lose their ability to protect your soft and hard tissues from bacteria, which places you at risk for periodontitis. 

Periodontitis is the most problematic and severe form of gum disease. The condition develops when pockets of bacteria, plaque and other debris build up between the necks of your teeth crowns and gums over time. The pockets can be deep and large enough to reveal the bone tissue of your jaws. Eventually, periodontitis destroys the tissues that support your teeth, including the tough connective tissues called ligaments.

Ligaments wrap around the roots of your teeth and lie directly against bone tissue. If bacteria weakens your ligaments, they lose their strength and tight grip, which allows your teeth to wobble, wiggle or move around in the sockets. Some of your teeth roots may develop abscesses that burst open and drain into the jawbone tissue below them. You should understand that open abscesses can spread infection to other tissues in the face, head and neck, including the brain.

To keep your mild gum disease from wreaking havoc on your dental health and life, it's critical that you find treatment now.

What Can You Do to Improve Your Gums?

One of the best ways to treat your gum disease is to see a dentist as soon as possible. A dental provider will most likely run tests, such as X-rays, to see if you have gum disease. X-rays may reveal signs of inflammation and infection, such as decay inside your teeth or bleeding around their roots. If you have an abscess in one or more of your teeth roots, a dentist may prescribe antibiotics to destroy the bacteria inside them.

In addition, a provider may check your gums to see if they contain pockets, or loose areas of tissue. If pockets are present, a dentist will generally measure their sizes with a dental probe and special chart. Pockets larger than 4 millimeters in size will require treatment to prevent further damage to your gums and other mouth tissues.

A dental provider will typically clean out the pockets to help them heal. But if the pockets are too large or severe to clean manually, a dentist may choose to treat your gums by laser. Laser gum treatment is a good option for you because it uses heat or a powerful beam of light to destroy bacteria. Traditional scalpels may not remove all or enough bacteria to help your gums heal.

After your treatment, it's a good idea that you see a dentist regularly to maintain a healthy mouth. Be sure to report any changes in your gums, such as bleeding and swelling, to a provider immediately. You may need additional treatments to manage your condition.

For more details about treatment for gingivitis or periodontitis, consult with a dental provider, such as Richard M Holmes DMD PA, today.