What Is Periodontal (Gum) Disease?
Periodontitis, or gum disease, is a bacterial infection that can result in damaged gums and, ultimately, loss of teeth. Symptoms include bleeding during brushing, chronic bad breath, red and swollen gums, receding gum line, and loose or shifting teeth. When plaque builds up along the gum line, gums become inflamed and pull away from the teeth. This is why removing the sticky film of plaque that forms on the teeth every day is essential!
The early stage of gum disease is classified as gingivitis, and if caught early on, the effects of the disease can be reversed. Once the gums and bone deteriorate, the damage is permanent and can only be managed, not cured, with professional treatment. Daily brushing and flossing can help prevent the onset of periodontal disease.
However, regular oral exams and cleanings are necessary to ensure that all plaque and tartar are removed from the teeth and that the signs of gum disease are caught before the damage is irreversible. Many patients do not experience any symptoms of periodontal disease until it’s too late, which is why it’s essential to schedule an evaluation today to learn more.
If you have been diagnosed with periodontal disease, you are not alone. Research shows more than half of Americans suffer from periodontal disease. Finding the disease is the first step in preventing tooth loss!
Warning Signs of Periodontal Disease
- Bleeding gums
- Red, swollen or tender gums
- Bad breath that doesn’t go away
- Loose or separating teeth
- Pus between your teeth
- A change in the way your teeth fit together
What Causes Gum Disease?
Gum disease usually starts as a result of poor oral hygiene. Improper or irregular brushing and flossing will allow bacteria to collect below the gum line. Smoking also contributes to a poor oral environment and accelerates the spread of bacteria in the mouth. Periodontal disease affects about 80% of U.S. adults and contributes to more tooth loss than cavities.
When we eat, bacteria mix with food and form a sticky film (plaque) on our teeth. Regular brushing and flossing will remove this film. However, just a couple of days can be enough for the plaque to harden into tartar. Removing tartar requires professional dental cleaning at our dental office. Tartar also permits more bacteria to collect on the teeth, causing gum tissue and bone to inflame from the irritation.
Untreated gum tissue inflammation can cause bone loss that allows pockets to develop between the gums and teeth. As these pockets become deeper, more bacteria will fit and build up inside them. This will eventually destroy the gum tissue and bone that support the teeth. If too much bone is destroyed, the teeth will not be supported anymore and will fall out.
What Can I Do to Prevent Gum Disease?
A daily home care regimen is necessary to try to prevent periodontal disease. Thoroughly brushing for two minutes twice a day and flossing every night will help keep bacteria under control. Flossing helps prevent cavities in between the teeth and, when done correctly, cleans under the gum line, and helps fight gum disease.
Many people understand the correlation between tobacco use and lung disease, heart disease, and cancer. However, recent studies show a link between tobacco use and periodontal disease. We have found an increase of hard, tartar build-up, deeper gum pockets, and more bone loss in patients who use tobacco products. We encourage all of our patients to quit smoking to improve their overall health and quality of life!
How Do You Treat Gum Disease?
Our state-of-the-art dental office treats gum disease according to the severity of the disease and other underlying medical conditions you may have. We usually start with a deep cleaning in the office to remove bacteria from the teeth and under the gums. Your dentist will discuss the best treatment options and look at your medical history to see if you might have other medical conditions, such as diabetes, that may contribute to your gum disease.
In some cases, non-surgical approaches are not enough to prevent further damage. Your dentist may refer you to a periodontist for gum surgery. If you have bad breath or your gums bleed when brushing, please schedule a consultation with your dentist and ask to be evaluated for gum disease to prevent more severe conditions.