Healthy gums are essential to your overall dental health. If your gums aren’t healthy, you’re at high risk for gum infection, tooth loss, and other dental problems. However, it’s not easy to recognize the signs of periodontal disease. Too many patients either don’t notice the symptoms or mistakenly believe that certain signs are normal. Here are some key things you should note about periodontal disease so you can take good care of your gums.
Symptoms of Periodontal Disease
The first stage of gum disease is known as gingivitis, characterized by red, swollen, or tender gums. Gingivitis can also cause bleeding while brushing or flossing.
If gingivitis is not treated, it can develop to a more advanced stage of periodontal disease called periodontitis. Periodontitis can cause the gums to pull away from the teeth, forming pockets that can become infected. This can cause the gums to recede, making the teeth appear longer. Additionally, the infection can damage the bones and tissues that support the teeth, leading to tooth loss.
Other symptoms of periodontal disease may include:
- Bad breath.
- A bad taste in the mouth.
- Changes in how the teeth fit together when biting.
Sometimes, there may be no symptoms of periodontal disease, so it’s essential to visit a dentist regularly for thorough checkups and dental cleanings.
What Causes Periodontitis?
Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is caused by the buildup of plaque on the teeth and gums. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on the teeth and gums. When plaque is not removed through regular brushing and flossing, it can harden into tartar, which can only be removed by a dentist or dental hygienist. The bacteria in plaque and tartar can cause inflammation of the gums, leading to periodontal disease.
Several factors can increase the risk of developing periodontal disease. Poor oral hygiene, such as failing to brush and floss regularly, is a major risk factor for periodontal disease. Additionally, tobacco use, including smoking and chewing tobacco, can increase the risk of periodontal disease by drying out the mouth and introducing harmful chemicals into the mouth.
Certain medical conditions can also increase the risk of periodontal disease. For example, people with diabetes are more likely to develop periodontal disease, as are people undergoing certain cancer treatments. Additionally, hormonal changes, such as those that occur during pregnancy or menopause, can make the gums more susceptible to infection.
Other risk factors include diabetes, immunodeficiency disease like AIDS, certain medications, hormonal changes, dry mouth, and a family history of gum disease. If you have any of these risk factors, be especially careful to protect your gums and get screenings for periodontal disease.
How Can Periodontal Disease Affect Your Health?
Gum disease can lead to even more serious health problems if not treated.
Periodontal disease is a problem in and of itself, and poor gum health also negatively affects your tooth health. However, it’s important to realize that periodontal disease can also seriously impact your overall physical health.
Gum disease is linked to several serious health conditions. It can contribute to or exacerbate heart disease and may also increase your risk for the kinds of strokes caused by blocked arteries. Patients with diabetes and gum disease have more difficulty getting their blood sugar under control than diabetic patients who have healthy gums. The bacteria that cause gum disease can also contribute to respiratory illnesses, and pregnant patients with gum disease are at risk for premature birth.
Treatment options for periodontal disease
The treatment of periodontal disease will depend on the stage of the disease and the severity of the infection.
In the early stage of periodontal disease, called gingivitis, the main goal of treatment is to reduce the inflammation of the gums and prevent the progression to a more advanced stage of the disease. This may involve professional cleanings to remove plaque and tartar from the teeth and gums and instructions on how to improve oral hygiene at home.
If periodontal disease has progressed to periodontitis, the treatment may involve a more extensive cleaning of the teeth and gums, called scaling and root planing. This procedure involves removing plaque and tartar from below the gum line and smoothing the teeth’ surface to prevent bacteria buildup. In some cases, the dentist may also prescribe antibiotics to kill the bacteria and reduce the inflammation of the gums.
If the infection has caused significant damage to the teeth and supporting tissues, more advanced procedures, such as gum surgery, may be necessary to repair the damage and restore the health of the gums.
Prevention of Periodontal Disease
Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is a common infection of the gums that can cause significant damage to the teeth and supporting tissues. The best way to prevent periodontal disease is to maintain good oral hygiene and avoid tobacco products.
Brushing and flossing your teeth at least twice daily to maintain good oral hygiene is important. This will help to remove plaque and prevent the buildup of bacteria on the teeth and gums. It’s also important to clean your tongue using a tongue scraper or toothbrush, as bacteria can build up on the tongue and cause bad breath. Using mouthwash can also help to kill bacteria and freshen the breath.
To prevent dry mouth, which can contribute to periodontal disease, it’s important to drink plenty of water and avoid sugary and acidic foods and drinks. Certain medical conditions and medications can cause a dry mouth, so it’s important to talk to a doctor or dentist if you are experiencing dry mouth.
Avoiding tobacco products, such as cigarettes and chewing tobacco, can also help to prevent periodontal disease. Tobacco products can cause dry mouth and introduce harmful chemicals into the mouth, increasing the risk of periodontal disease.
Additionally, regular dental checkups and cleanings can help to prevent periodontal disease by removing plaque and tartar and identifying any early signs of infection. It’s important to see a dentist regularly, even if you are not experiencing any symptoms of periodontal disease.
Overall, the best way to prevent periodontal disease is to maintain oral hygiene and avoid tobacco products. Regular dental checkups and cleanings can also help prevent periodontal disease and treat it promptly if it does occur.
Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is a common infection of the gums that can cause significant damage to the teeth and supporting tissues. It’s important to understand the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for periodontal disease to prevent and treat it effectively. Maintaining good oral hygiene and avoiding tobacco products are the most effective ways to prevent periodontal disease. If you are concerned about your oral health, you should see a dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings.