Gum disease is a common problem that affects almost half of all adults. Gingivitis and periodontitis are the two most common types of gum disease, both caused by bacteria in plaque on teeth that leads to inflammation in the gums. If left untreated, gum disease can lead to tooth loss or even other illnesses. The treatment for gingivitis and periodontitis in adults will depend largely on how advanced they have become. It can include medications, surgery, or laser treatment as well as dental hygiene practices.
How Does Gingivitis Occur in Adults & Why Treatment is Important?
Gum disease is usually caused by plaque buildup on teeth and gums. Dental plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that feeds on food particles and produces acids. These acids can damage the gum tissue causing inflammation and swelling of gums. This process is known as gingivitis. In this case, early treatment of inflammation can reverse gingivitis in adults without any complications.
If the inflammation is left untreated, the infection can spread to the tooth-supporting tissues, leading to periodontitis, a more serious form of gum disease. Periodontitis can cause the gums to pull away from the teeth, and adult teeth can become loose and fall out. In addition, studies show that people with periodontitis have a much greater risk of developing health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke than those without the condition. Unlike gingivitis, the treatment of periodontitis in adults aims to prevent the disease from worsening and causing more damage. Periodontitis can’t be reversed, but treatment can slow down the progression and prevent further damage.
Cause & Risk Factors for Gum Disease in Adults
Gum disease is caused by bacteria that hide in dental plaque. When you eat food, these bacteria break it down and produce acids as a byproduct. These acids cause inflammation and swelling of the gums. Gingivitis in adults is reversible if treatment begins early on. Several factors increase the risk of plaque accumulation and bacterial growth, which include:
- Poor oral hygiene: especially not brushing and flossing daily or on a regular basis. Brushing your teeth regularly is one of the treatment options to reverse gingivitis in adults. Poor oral hygiene can also cause white tongue and bad breath.
- Smoking & tobacco use: smoking and chewing tobacco dry out the mouth, which makes it harder for saliva to wash away acids produced by bacteria in the mouth. Also, it weakens your immune system.
- Hormonal changes in women: changes in hormones level during puberty, menopause, or pregnancy can affect the immune system making you more susceptible to gum disease.
- Poor diet: Eating a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates can cause tooth decay and gum disease.
- Certain diseases: diseases such as diabetes, cancer, HIV/AIDS, and cirrhosis can weaken the immune system making you more susceptible to gum disease.
- Some medications: taking certain medications such as steroids, some antibiotics, and medications for the treatment of HIV/AIDS can cause dry mouth. All these circumstances can lead to gingivitis in adults and make treatment necessary.
- Aging: as you age, your gums shrink and pull away from the roots of your teeth. This creates more tooth surface area for bacteria to stick and grow. In addition, older adults are at risk of having less saliva.
Signs of Gingivitis in Adults That Require Immediate Treatment
You should visit your dentist immediately if you noticed the signs and symptoms of gingivitis, which include:
- Red, swollen or tender gums.
- Gums that bleed when you brush your teeth. Bleeding can also occur during flossing or dental checkups, but it should be occasional and not constant as in the case of gingivitis.
- Bad breath that lasts for more than two weeks.
If gingivitis is left untreated, the infection will spread to the tooth-supporting tissues, causing periodontitis. The signs and symptoms of periodontitis include:
- Gum recession.
- Pus between your gums and teeth.
- Pain when you chew.
- Changes in the way your teeth fit together or in your bite.
- Unattractive smile due to spaces arising between your teeth.
- Increased sensitivity to hot and cold foods.
- Teeth that easily loosen or shift out of place.
- Tooth loss, which occurs due to the destruction of tooth-supporting tissues such as bone.
What Are The Treatment Options?
If you noticed any of the above signs and symptoms, you should visit your dentist immediately for treatment and prevent complications. The treatment of gum disease can be non-surgical or surgical, depending on the severity of the disease.
Treatment for Gingivitis in Adults
Gingivitis in adults is usually reversed by scaling and root planing treatment (non-surgical). Scaling and root planing involves removing the plaque and tartar from above and below the gum line. This treatment is usually done by your dentist under local anesthesia to decrease discomfort during treatment.
Laser scaling treatment is also offered in some dental clinics. This treatment uses a laser beam to remove plaque and tartar from the teeth themselves as well as any deposits that have formed below the gum line. After scaling & root planing, your dentist will give you home care instructions such as:
- Brush your teeth twice daily with toothpaste containing fluoride.
- Using interdental brushes, floss to remove plaque from between the teeth.
- Use an antimicrobial mouthwash several times a day.
- Eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of water.
- Quit smoking.
- Visit your dentist regularly so that treatment can be repeated if necessary.
Treatment for Periodontitis in Adults
Gingivitis in adults can rapidly progress to periodontitis if treatment is not done in time. Therefore treatment should begin as soon as signs appear to prevent the disease from getting worse and irreversible damage from occurring. In the case of moderate to severe periodontitis, the dentist may recommend surgical procedures to treat infected and damaged gum tissues. The surgical procedures include:
- Flap surgery: the dentist may raise a flap to perform deep scaling and root planing.
- Pocket reduction surgery: the treatment is performed to help treat deep pockets in the gum tissues that are caused by periodontitis. During this procedure, the gums are lifted up, tartar is removed, and gums are then placed back around the teeth.
- Gum grafts: to replace gums that have been lost due to periodontitis, the dentist will take a small piece of healthy gum from another site then place it in the area that needs to be treated.
- Bone grafts: treatment is performed to replace the tooth-supporting bone damaged by periodontitis.
Treatment for Gingivitis in Adults – Conclusion
Gingivitis in adults is a mild form of gum disease that can be reversed by treatment. If left untreated, it will progress to periodontitis which has severe consequences if not treated in time. There are many treatment options for both gingivitis and periodontitis available, depending on the severity of the condition. If you are suffering from gingivitis, your dentist will typically recommend scaling and root planing treatment to eliminate plaque and tartar buildup as well as prevent periodontitis. In moderate to severe periodontitis, surgery may be recommended.