The Dentist From a Child' Point of View

Everything You Need To Know About Periodontal Disease

Your oral health is incredibly important. However, it's not just your teeth that can suffer. Your gums can develop gum disease or periodontal disease, which can lead to tooth loss. If you would like to know more to better protect your oral health, keep reading.

What Is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease is an infection of the gum tissue. Your mouth has naturally occurring bacteria. Brushing and flossing keeps these bacteria in check, but if left ignored, the bacteria leads to tooth decay and gum irritation.

Your risk of gum disease increases if you neglect to brush and floss, but poor diet may also increase the risk, especially if you consume high-sugar, acidic, or carbohydrate-rich foods or beverages. The mouth bacteria love sugar and carbs, and acidic foods and beverages further irritate gums.

People with conditions that affect the immune system, such as HIV/AIDS or autoimmune disease may have a higher risk because their bodies may not heal as effectively. Other risk factors include:

  • Smoking
  • Hormonal changes related to pregnancy or menopause
  • Obesity
  • Malnutrition
  • Genetics
  • Dry mouth

How Does the Disease Progress?

At first, you may not realize you have gum disease. This mild form of gum disease is known as gingivitis, and it makes gums tender. This can cause bleeding when you brush, and gums may look red instead of pink. Some patients, however, don't realize they have gum disease until the dentist informs them.

As the bacteria continues to run rampant, the gums become more tender, and the disease may advance to periodontitis. The gums may hurt or bleed even when you aren't brushing. Pockets or gaps develop between the teeth and gums, which trap bacteria and food, leading to further gum irritation.

Eventually, you may lose gum tissue as the gums recede. In severe cases, the disease reaches the jawbone, causing it to weaken. This further increase the risk of tooth loss. Other symptoms of periodontitis include:

  • Loose teeth
  • Bad breath
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Shifting teeth
  • Shrinking jawbone

Is There Treatment?

Treatment heavily depends on the stage and the symptoms. The infection itself is easily treated with a combination of in-office deep cleaning, continued at-home care, and a round of antibiotics (usually in the form of mouthwash or special gelatin antibiotics that are placed directly in the gum pocket). Even mild pockets will shrink after the gums are no longer irritated and inflamed.

Major pockets, gum loss, bone loss, and tooth loss, however, are not reversible. Luckily, there are treatments to help reposition gums and restore lost tissue.

If you think you have gum disease, it's time to start treatment. Starting treatment early may prevent a host of future problems. If you would like to know more about periodontal disease, contact a dentist in your area today.