Gum Disease

Diagram of a normal tooth and a tooth with periodontitis used by Portland dentist at Whole Health Dentistry.Caring for your mouth involves several components. Much of your oral care occurs at home on a daily basis with brushing and flossing. Regular dental visits for cleanings and exams (at least twice a year) are also integral. Ignoring any step of your oral care routine, or consistently missing areas of your mouth when you brush, quickly leads to a buildup of oral plaque and bacteria, both of which contribute to gum disease. Gum disease is a progressive issue, meaning that it only gets worse the longer it goes untreated, and it cannot be reversed at home. At Whole Health Dentistry, we can provide you with treatment for your gum disease, stopping it in its tracks and restoring the health of your mouth.

The Progression of Gum Disease

When gum disease starts, it is almost unnoticeable. A buildup of plaque, a sticky substance that collects on your teeth, and oral bacteria begin to irritate the gum tissue. In response, the body sends an inflammatory response, causing the gums to swell. Known as gingivitis, this early stage of gum disease is characterized by red, swollen gums that bleed when you brush and floss. These symptoms are often ignored, thought to be the result of aggressive brushing. Untreated, the swelling causes your gums to pull away from your teeth, creating pockets. Bacteria and debris fall below the gum line, and the bacteria begin attacking the jawbone and periodontal ligaments that hold your teeth in place. The pockets grow deeper, the gums recede, and your teeth become loose. Eventually, they may even fall out.

What Causes Gum Disease?

Gum disease can be caused by a variety of different things:

  • Poor oral hygiene (ignoring your brushing and flossing routine and your regular dental visits).
  • Smoking. Smoking restricts blood flow, which slows your ability to fend off bacteria.
  • Drinking. Alcohol dries the mouth, creating an ideal environment for bacterial growth.
  • Certain medications. Some medications can dry the mouth. 
  • Crooked teeth. Crooked teeth are harder to keep clean, providing more hiding spaces for bacteria and plaque.
  • Nutritional deficiencies. To stay healthy, your gums require sufficient nutrients. In particular, vitamins C and B12 are crucial for gum health.

Symptoms of Gum Disease

Symptoms that can indicate gum disease include:

  • Red, swollen gums.
  • Bleeding when brushing and flossing.
  • Chronic bad breath that persists even after brushing, mouthwash, or gum. This bad breath is often the result of bacteria and debris trapped below the gum line.
  • Receding gums.
  • Tooth sensitivity (exposed roots).
  • Loose teeth.
  • Your teeth begin to shift out of alignment.
  • Missing teeth.

How is Gum Disease Treated?

There are several treatments for gum disease. The exact treatment used depends on the stage of gum disease and your specific needs:

  • Scaling and root planing. This is a deep cleaning of your teeth that involves removing buildup from the surfaces of the teeth, around the gum line, and smoothing the surfaces of the roots.
  • Laser treatment. If your gums are too swollen for an effective scaling and root planing, a laser may be used to remove the infected gum tissue to provide the necessary access.
  • Pocket reduction surgery. When the periodontal pockets are too deep to properly clean, pocket reduction surgery may be performed. This procedure involves creating incisions in the gums to access the teeth and thoroughly clean them so that the gums can begin to heal.
  • Gum grafting. Gum grafting restores recessed gum tissue.
  • Bone grafting. Bone grafting restores missing bone mass, which often occurs as a result of tooth loss.

Gum disease does not go away on its own, nor can it be reversed at home. If you suspect you have gum disease, contact Whole Health Dentistry at (503) 233-5825 to schedule your appointment today.