Gum Disease and Infection

The gums are also called as the gingivae. These are firm fibrous tissue connected to the bone of the jaw. If they are atleast 1 mm thick and have a good blood supply, then they are said to be “healthy”. Along with age, they decrease slightly and expose more surface of the tooth.

Gum disease
The term implies bacterial growth and generation of conditions that with time destroy the tissue around the teeth. “Periodontal disease” is another term for this state.

Plaque is always getting formed on the teeth surface due to the presence of bacteria. This substance is the origin of gum disease. If plaque remains on the tooth surface for 24 hours, it is transformed to tartar or calculus. Tartar is so strongly bonded with the teeth, that it can be removed only by professional cleaning.

The gum disease occurs in two stages: Gingivitis and Periodontitis. Generally, gingivitis precedes periodontitis.

In the initial stage, the gums become red and swollen. They bleed easily, generally while brushing. If adequate plaque control is done, gingivitis can be reversed. By proper treatment from a dentist coupled with adequate brushing and flossing at home, Gingivitis can be cured. If not treated properly, gingivitis leads to periodontitis.

Moderate Periodontitis
The word “periodontitis” means diseased condition surrounding the tooth. “Peri” means surrounding or around and “odontos” means tooth. This is a low grade gum infection. A superior grade toothbrush cannot control this disease due to the large quantity of calculus. Bacteria in this calculus creates waste products. These products have toxins and volatile sulphur compounds. The toxins destroy the bones and gums surrounding the teeth. The inner layer of the gum and bone move away from the tooth surface. A pocket is formed between the teeth and gums. In this space, debris may get stored. The plaque spreads. It grows below the gumline. The space in healthy gums is upto 3 mm deep. If this increases to 5 mm, it is called “moderate periodontal disease”. As the disease increases, the pockets become more deep. Due to this, more gum tissue and bone are affected. As a result, the teeth become loose gradually and finally there is loss of the teeth.

The volatile sulphur compounds caused by the bacteria lead to bad breath. Sometimes teeth look healthy, but there might be pockets. These can be detected by x-rays and periodontal probing. The periodontal probe measures the pocket depth around every tooth. Generally, periodontal disease is not limited to one tooth. It affects several teeth simultaneously. If the dentist finds that the depth of the pockets has decreased to 1-3 mm after some treatment, it is concluded that the periodontitis is under control.

Advanced Periodontitis
This condition is said to occur if the depth of the pockets becomes more than 6 mm. Then, surgery is unavoidable. This can be performed by a dentist or a periodontist. During the surgery, the diseased tissue is removed and the tooth structure is completely cleaned. It is made difficult for plaque and calculus to gather. In case the disease has led to a defect in the bone, the area has to be reshaped or a bone graft procedure is necessary. The gums have to be stitched around the teeth in a proper place and generally lower than before. Further, if daily brushing and flossing is done, the region can be freed from plaque.

Gum abscess
This is also called “periodontal abscess”. It usually occurs amongst people who have periodontal disease that has already caused bone loss around the root of the tooth. The bacteria in the periodontal pocket alter with time and more destructive species may replace the earlier ones. The byproducts of the bacteria can dissolve more bone. The gum abscess can become worse, if there is pus formation and this pus is trapped under the gum. This infection can spread towards the ear or neck or below the lower jaw. Even opening the mouth may become difficult due to the swelling and inflammation.

Sometimes, there is a conspicuous swelling around the tooth. If the gum is pushed by a finger, there is a hurting feeling. If the region is probed, blood and pus ooze out. At times this abscess can burst and cause pus to drain. This causes some relief.

There are two types of gum abscess. An “acute” one is accompanied by pain, swelling and fever. A “chronic” one can be painless and the person is unaware of its formation in the jawbone. The area of infection is surrounded by a fibrous sac (granuloma) that does not contain pus, but has non-infectious sterile tissue. Such abscesses are detected by x-rays.

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2 thoughts on “Gum Disease and Infection”

  1. MR. Staph infection, I beg to differ. This post might be long, but it does contain a lot of info and info on gum diseases is absolutely necessary for people to know. So good job author, it is very detailed and not boringly long.

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