John W. Schulz, D.D.S. - San FranciscoGum Disease
More than half of Americans over the age of 45 are affected by periodontitis. Ongoing gum infections lead to periodontal disease, the gradual shrinking of bone mass supporting your natural smile.
Gum disease is caused by built up dental plaque over and between your teeth and gum line. The first signs are often inflammation of the gums with the tendency to bleed easily. When left untreated, plaque will harden into tartar. This happens above and below the gum line.
As periodontal disease progresses, gum tissue deteriorates to form deep pockets. As teeth loosen, root exposure leads teeth to becoming more susceptible to decay and an increase in hot/ cold sensitivity.
Research has shown that gum disease can influence heart disease and other health conditions in negative ways. They suggest that gum disease could even be a more serious factor in heart disease than smoking, cholesterol, hypertension and age. One reason for this is the fact that the bacteria found in diseased gums can come loose and move throughout the body. When this bacteria reaches arteries it can cause arterial plaque to build up and harden which in return adversely affect blood flow.
Healthy gums are generally pink and anchor the teeth firmly in place.
Gingivitis is an early stage of gum disease. Gingivitis develops as toxins, enzymes and other plaque byproducts by irritating the gums, making them tender, swollen and likely to bleed easily. Gingivitis generally can be stopped with proper oral hygiene and minor treatment from your dentist. If this is achieved, your gums can return to a healthy state.
Moderate gum disease is when the tooth's bone tissue starts to deteriorate. Periodontitis occurs when plaque byproducts destroy the tissues that anchor your teeth in the bone. The gums deteriorate and begin detaching themselves from the teeth forming gum pockets, which allows more plaque to collect below the gum line. This causes the roots of the teeth to become susceptible to decay. Generally, patients notice an increase in sensitivity to hot and cold and to touch.
Advanced periodontitis occurs when a major amount of gum and bone tissue has been lost and the teeth are losing more and more support due to the loss of periodontal ligament and bone. Some teeth are unable to be saved and must be extracted. If left untreated, advanced periodontitis can cause severe health problems elsewhere in the body.
Suppress the urge to avoid cleaning teeth that are sensitive to cold! Teeth that have suffered damage from gum disease will always be more sensitive to cold. Avoiding them only makes it worse.
After any dental treatment, teeth may become sensitive. This is their way of letting you know that they've been injured. Any injury (cavity, tooth clenching/grinding, gum infection) can injure the nerves in a tooth. This should not last long if the teeth are kept clean. If the teeth are not kept clean, the sensitivity will remain or get worse.
If your teeth are especially sensitive, consult with your dentist. This could be a sign of the need for root canal treatment, a gum tissue graft, a desensitizing toothpaste (with potassium nitrate), or a concentrated fluoride gel (0.4% stannous- or 1.1% sodium-fluoride) may do the trick.