What is black gum disease?

Written by shelley moore
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What is black gum disease?
Amoxicillin and other antibiotics may help black gum disease. (Teeth and Mouth image by Sujit Mahapatra from Fotolia.com)

Most gum disease begins with an inflammation that causes bleeding and receding gums, and can be reversed with early treatment. Black gum disease is an entirely different circumstance. This is a serious infection that kills gum tissue and requires immediate attention from a periodontist. Autoimmune disorders, stress, smoking and poor nutrition all factor into the presence of black gum disease.

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Effects of Gum Disease

Dentists estimate that about 75 per cent of people in North America over age 35 and over half of those over 18 have some form of gum disease, typically gingivitis. In gingivitis, the gums become irritated due to build-up of plaque and tartar. Tartar is the substance plaque calcifies into if not brushed away soon enough. Gingivitis can often be remedied with a professional dental cleaning along with regular brushing and flossing.

Effects of Periodontal Disease

If not dealt with soon enough, gingivitis can progress to more serious gum disease called periodontitis, where gums bleed easily and recede from the teeth. Treatment begins with a specialised dentist, called a periodontist, performing dental scaling and root-planing to remove the tartar build-up. When periodontitis is not treated, it causes damage to the cartilage and bones surrounding the teeth. It eventually leads to tooth loss.

Identification of Black Gum Disease

Black gum disease is technically called acute necrotizing periodontal disease, and it is a serious bacterial infection. It appears as blunted gum tissue rather than the usual cone shape, and features unpleasant odour, pain, spontaneous bleeding and black, dead tissue. People become susceptible to this infection with some combination of stress, poor nutrition, smoking, autoimmune illnesses and viral infections including human immunodeficiency virus. Anyone with these symptoms must see a periodontist immediately.

Treatment of Black Gum Disease

Treatment includes taking systemic antibiotics, such as amoxicillin, clavulanic acid or metronidazole, and removal of the damaged tissue by a periodontist. A French study in 2006 also showed significantly more rapid improvement in smokers when administering local oxygen therapy in addition to the antibiotics, as an aid in reducing destructive anaerobic microorganisms. Patients had less gum damage than those not receiving oxygen therapy.

Trench Mouth

An additional disease that causes gum discolouration is acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis, the so-called trench mouth, resulting from bad dental hygiene. The slang name was coined during World War I, when soldiers had to stay in trenches for long periods of time and developed acute cases of gingivitis. The disease is rare today, but when it does occur, symptoms include a grey film covering the gums, along with bleeding and severe pain when brushing, eating or even swallowing. As with black gum disease, a person with any of these symptoms should see a periodontist immediately.

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