Like any area of your body, your mouth is susceptible to infection. Gum disease is a bacterial infection in the gums that damages the soft tissues and can destroy the tooth-supporting tissues. It usually arises from poor oral hygiene. However, there are several factors that contribute to gum infection and gum diseases such as smoking, hormonal changes, and diabetes mellitus.
If early gum disease (gingivitis) is left untreated, the infection can spread to the tooth-supporting tissues, causing periodontitis – a more serious infection. Infection in the gums is a major cause of tooth loss in adults, according to ADA. So, visit your dentist regularly to prevent or treat gum infections and keep your mouth healthy.
What’s Gum Disease & Its Stages?
Gum disease means bacterial infection in the gums. It can cause tooth loss if left untreated. Gum disease can be categorized into gingivitis and periodontitis.
- Gingivitis: it is the early stage of gum infection. It is characterized by inflamed, red gums and gum bleeding. Gingivitis can be reversed by professional teeth cleaning and oral hygiene habits. If gingivitis is left untreated, the infection in the gums may spread to the tooth-supporting tissues, causing periodontitis.
- Periodontitis: it is a severe infection in the gums. In this stage, the infection may spread to the tooth-supporting tissues, causing permanent damage such as tooth loss.
Causes of Bacterial Infection in The Gums
Bacterial infection in the gums usually occurs due to poor oral hygiene. Your mouth contains different types of bacteria. Good oral hygiene practices such as tooth brushing and flossing can help control the level of these bacteria and keep your mouth and gums healthy. Poor oral hygiene can promote the growth of bacteria, and allow the buildup of plaque around your teeth and gums.
Dental plaque is a thin film of bacteria that accumulates on teeth and gums every day. You can develop gum infection when plaque extends below the gum line. Plaque can harden into tartar, which is very hard to remove, making it more difficult to clean your teeth. Both plaque and tartar can irritate your gums and directly cause gum infection.
The following factors increase your risk of developing gum disease:
- Smoking or chewing tobacco. Learn more about the link between smoking and gum disease.
- Poor oral hygiene such as not brushing or flossing your teeth.
- Hormonal changes during pregnancy (pregnancy gingivitis), puberty, and menopause.
- Dry mouth conditions.
- Broken tooth fillings and tooth decay.
- Poorly fitted dentures and dental bridges.
- Consuming certain medications such as calcium channel blockers, anticonvulsants, and steroids.
- Some diseases such as diabetes mellitus and HIV.
- Genetic factors.
Signs & Symptoms of Bacterial infection in the gums
Gum disease is a sign of overall poor oral health. Your gums are prone to infection if not cleaned properly. The signs and symptoms of gum infection may vary, depending on the severity and location of the infection.
Gingivitis: Mild Bacterial Infection in The Gums
In the early stage, most people aren’t aware that they have an infection in the gums or mouth because it causes no pain. The early symptoms of gingivitis include:
- Infected gums are red & swollen.
- Gums are tender to touch.
- Infected gums bleed easily when brushing or flossing your teeth.
- Bad breath.
Periodontitis: a Severe Gum Infection
- Receding gums: the gums begin to pull away from teeth.
- Teeth appear longer than normal because of the gum recession.
- Formation of periodontal pockets between teeth.
- Gum abscess: pus between teeth and gums.
- Change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite.
- Sensitive teeth.
- Chronic bad breath: the unpleasant smell that doesn’t go away after you brush your teeth.
- Partial dentures are no longer fit.
- Loose teeth and eventually tooth loss.
How is Bacterial Infection in The Gums Treated?
The treatment options vary, depending on the severity of gum infection. Gingivitis can be reversed by proper oral hygiene and professional teeth cleaning at the dental office. Read more about the treatment of gingivitis in adults.
If the gums are severely infected, the treatment of periodontitis may include:
- Antibiotic therapy: your dentist or periodontist will prescribe oral antibiotics and an antiseptic mouthwash to help control the infection in the mouth.
- Scaling and root planing: your periodontist will perform a deep cleaning to remove tartar from above and below the gum line, and smooth rough root surfaces.
- Surgery: in severe cases, your periodontist may recommend surgery, for example,
- Gingivectomy: to remove the enlarged gum tissues.
- Flap surgery: to perform deep cleaning.
- Bone and tissue graft: to repair damaged gum tissues and bone.
Infection in The Gums – Conclusion
Bacterial infection in the gums usually occurs due to poor oral hygiene. Not brushing your teeth can lead to the accumulation of dental plaque on your teeth and gums. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that irritates your gums and can cause infection. If your teeth are not cleaned regularly, the infection may spread to the tooth-supporting tissues, causing periodontitis – a severe form of gum infection. Other factors may contribute to periodontal diseases such as smoking, dry mouth condition, hormonal changes, and diabetes. Maintain good oral hygiene to keep your mouth and body healthy.