12/22/2009 - Questions and Answers

Periodontal Disease

By: Mark Castleden

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I have very red gums and little white spots on the gums of my front lower teeth; it has been very tender for the last few days. What can this be?

Question

I have very red gums and little white spots on the gumsof my front lower teeth; it has been very tender for the last few days. What can this be?

Answer

From what you described in your question it appears that you may have periodontal disease. This is a generic term used to describe a disease of the gums.

Periodontal disease can affect one tooth or many teeth. It begins when the bacteria in plaque (the sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth) causes the gums to become inflamed.

In the mildest form of the disease, gingivitis, the gums redden, swell and bleed easily. Occasionally small areas of pus pockets can form on the gums, appearing as pin-point white or yellow pustules. There is usually little or no discomfort in the beginning stages. Gingivitis is often caused by inadequate oral hygiene, but other causes can be from stress, tobacco products, some medications, grinding of the teeth and poor nutrition.

When giingivitis is more advanced, the gums bleed easily i.e. when you brush your teeth. Some more serious diseases (e.g.leukemia) can also present with reddened gums which bleed easily.

Gingivitis is reversible with professional treatment and good oral home care. Untreated, gingivitis can advance to periodontitis. With time, plaque spreads and grows below the gum line. Toxins produced by the bacteria in plaque irritate the gums. The toxins stimulate a chronic inflammatory response, in which the body in essence turns on itself, and the tissues and bone that support the teeth are broken down and destroyed. Gums separate from the teeth, forming pockets (spaces between the teeth and gums) that become infected. Eventually, teeth can become loose and may have to be removed.

Because of the complications associated with gum disease and the fact that it is also a sign of possible disease in the entire body, it's important that you see a dentist for a full examination and treatment.

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Created on: 05/01/2003
Reviewed on: 12/22/2009

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