Periodontal Disease: More Serious Than You Think!
Bad breath. Receding gums. Tooth loss. These are all problems caused by periodontal disease, a condition that can wreak havoc in your mouth. Periodontal disease, or gum disease, is an infection of the gums and bone that support your teeth. But unlike other infections in your body, periodontal gum disease can't be treated with antibiotics.
Periodontal disease affects up to 80 percent of American adults, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Not only is it a threat to your dental health, but it's also a threat to your overall health. Periodontal disease has been linked to several health problems, including heart disease and diabetes. Having advanced periodontal disease can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke, and pregnant women with periodontal disease are more at risk for delivering premature, low birth weight babies.
You don't have to suffer from periodontal gum disease. Find out what you can do to prevent it. And if you already have periodontal disease, learn how you can keep it from progressing.
What Causes Periodontal Disease
Periodontal disease is caused by a buildup of plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on teeth. When not removed, plaque turns into tartar (calculus), a hard substance that you cannot remove on your own. When left untreated, plaque and tartar can spread under the gums, causing an infection.
Your body's immune system will jump into action to fight the infection. Unfortunately, it won't be able to stop the spread of plaque. Your body's enzymes, along with the toxins producing the bacteria in plaque, will actually start to break down the bone and tissue that connects it. Hence, your body turns on itself, destroying gum and bone tissue that hold your teeth in place and resulting in advanced periodontal disease.
Stages of Periodontal Disease
There are two different types of periodontal disease: gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal gum disease -- and the only stage that's reversible. Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums from plaque bacteria. Although symptoms are mild, you may know you have gingivitis if you have red, swollen or bleeding gums. It can be treated with good oral hygiene and a procedure called scaling and root planing, where plaque and tartar are removed from below the gum line.
Left untreated, gingivitis can turn into periodontitis, or advanced periodontal disease. Unlike gingivitis, which only affects the gums, periodontitis affects the gums and bone that support your teeth. During periodontitis, gums start to recede and pull away from teeth, forming pockets. The depth of the pockets will determine the severity of your periodontal disease. Your gums will start to recede, exposing your tooth's roots to sensitivity and tooth decay. Left untreated, advanced periodontal disease can cause your teeth to loosen and fall out. Periodontal gum disease can't be cured, but it can be treated and contained to help prevent tooth loss.
Symptoms of Periodontal Disease
Periodontal gum disease is mostly painless, so you may not be aware you have it. But it can easily be detected by a dentist, which makes visiting the dentist so important. Dentists may check for periodontal disease with a probe to detect the depth of your pockets, or X-rays may be taken to look for damage to the bone structure.
In the meantime, be on the lookout for these symptoms:
- Gums that bleed when brushing teeth or flossing
- Red, swollen or tender gums
- Receding gums
- Tooth sensitivity
- Halitosis (chronic bad breath) or a bad taste in mouth
- Pus pockets between teeth and gums
- Gums pulling away from the teeth
- Loose tooth or teeth that have shifted out of place
- Changes in your bite or dentures that no longer fit right
You may have heard that periodontal disease comes with age. While age is a risk factor, periodontal disease is the result of poor oral hygiene.
But there are certain risk factors that can increase your chances of developing periodontal gum disease:
Smoking -- Tobacco is harmful to your oral health. Smoking not only dries out the mouth but makes it harder for gum tissue to repair itself.
Hormonal Changes -- Hormonal changes in women makes gums more sensitive, making it easier for periodontal disease to develop. For instance, pregnant women are at risk of developing pregnancy gingivitis.
Stress -- Stress can weaken the immune system, leaving you more susceptible to a variety of infections.
Medications -- Certain prescription drugs can block the production of saliva, causing dry mouth. Saliva is needed to neutralize acid from bacteria and wash away debris from your mouth. Without it, you put yourself more at risk for cavities and advanced periodontal disease.
Genetics -- Heredity may play a role in determining whether you will develop periodontal disease.
Medical Problems -- Diabetes affects the body's ability to use blood sugar, increasing the risk of infection. Illnesses like cancer and HIV can also weaken the immune system.
Age -- Although periodontal gum disease can affect anyone at any time, most people start developing it in their 30s and 40s.
Gender -- Men are more likely to have periodontal disease than women.
Treating Periodontal Disease
There are several types of periodontal gum disease treatments available. Most stages of periodontal disease are initially treated with scaling and root planing. If you have advanced periodontal disease, gum surgery may be needed to remove tartar found deep within the gums. Gum surgery requires pulling back sections of the gums, removing the infection and suturing the gums back in place. Depending on the severity of your case, gum surgery may be done with a laser. If gum or bone tissue is destroyed from advanced periodontal disease, gum grafting or bone grafting may be used to restore the tissue.
Preventing Periodontal Disease
While periodontal disease isn't curable, it is preventable. Practice good oral hygiene -- that means brushing twice a day and after meals and flossing daily to remove plaque. Be sure to consume a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in sugar. Not smoking and reducing stress can also decrease your risk of developing advanced periodontal disease. Not only does it affect your immune system, but stress can lead to teeth grinding, which puts pressure on the hard and soft tissues of your mouth and increases your risk for dental problems.
Visit your dentist at least twice a year for periodontal maintenance. Many dentists now use ultrasonic cleaning to remove more tartar from beneath the gums during dental cleanings. If you are diagnosed with periodontal disease, you may need more frequent visits to help control it. A dentist can also help you decide which type of periodontal gum disease treatment is right for you.
For a great dentist who treats periodontal disease, call us at 1-866-970-0441.