What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is another term for gum disease. The severity of this problem can range from slight inflammation and redness of the gums (called gingivitis) to serious infections that can cause major damage to the soft tissue and bones in a mouth (called periodontitis).
So, what causes it?
Periodontal disease starts when plaque accumulates on teeth. This build up is typically removed with regular brushing and flossing, but it can regenerate quickly. Plaque that stays on teeth for more than a few days can harden into tartar or calculus. Calculus can also build up from minerals found in saliva. Tartar or calculus is very difficult to remove, and requires a professional cleaning from a hygienist to remove.
Without a good oral hygiene regimen and routine preventative care from a dentist, tartar and plaque can build up to the point that it irritates and inflames the gums. They become red, sensitive, and bleed easily. These are all the symptoms of gingivitis.
When gingivitis is not treated properly, inflammation causes the gums to pull away from the teeth – creating spaces or “pockets” that can fill with bacteria and infection. The bacteria, as well as the body’s own response to fighting the infection, breaks down the soft tissue and bone around the teeth. Because of permanent tissue loss, teeth too can become loose – and in some cases, they may even need to be removed.
What are the symptoms?
Some signs of periodontal disease include:
- Persistent bad breath
- Red or purple gums
- Swollen or shiny gums
- Gums that bleed easily when brushing or flossing
- Sensitive teeth
- Loose teeth
- Pain while chewing
- Mouth sores
- A change in how your teeth fit when you bite together
- Receding gums
If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s a good idea to schedule a checkup with your dentist, or a specialist in Periodontal disease.
Who’s at risk for periodontal disease?
While we’re all at risk for developing gum disease, several factors can increase your odds including:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Some medications
- Hormonal changes, such as during pregnancy
- Poor nutrition
- Older age
- Decreased Immunity
- Family history of gum disease
- Teeth grinding
The symptoms and side effects of gingivitis are reversible with professional care and good oral hygiene. While some symptoms of periodontitis may be permanent, it’s important to work with a dentist to create a treatment plan to address current symptoms, halt further damage, and restore a mouth back to a healthy state. A few treatments a dentist might suggest include a root planning and scaling (a deep cleaning performed by a hygienist), a course of antibiotics, or in some of the most serious instances – surgical options.
How can I prevent it?
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recently reported that nearly 65 million Americans suffer from some form of periodontal disease. While a staggering number, the good news is periodontal disease is usually preventable with a regular, oral health routine. Brush teeth at least twice per day, floss daily, and supplement this care with additional mouth cleaning tools such as – mouthwash, dental picks, and inter dental brushes. These efforts, as well as scheduling bi-annual professional cleanings with a dentist will help stave off gum disease and improve overall dental health.