Periodontal disease is not something to be taken lightly— it’s a serious oral health problem, even in the earliest stage. If you are noticing gums that bleed easily or teeth becoming loose, it could be early signs that you have developed periodontal disease. This condition can quickly escalate if ignored and not treated by your dentist.
Fortunately, with a proper diagnosis and treatment plan, it’s possible to effectively manage it at any stage. A good starting point is to know what you’re dealing with—what this disease is and how to diagnose and treat it.
What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease is a serious infection of the gum tissue that surrounds and supports your teeth. If left untreated, it can lead to tooth loss and even a more serious infection called sepsis. There are three stages of periodontal disease: gingivitis, periodontitis, and advanced periodontitis.
Gingivitis is the earliest stage—you’ve likely heard the term on many toothpaste commercials and the like. In this stage, the gums become red, swollen, and bleed easily. This is typically the result of plaque buildup on the teeth. Plaque is a sticky film that consists of food particles, bacteria, and saliva.
If plaque is not removed, it can harden into tartar (calculus). Tartar is not something you can eradicate with home oral care, you need professional treatment from a dentist.
Gingivitis in and of itself is very correctible, but if gingivitis is not treated—that becomes a bigger problem. Without treatment, it can progress to periodontitis.
In this stage, the gum tissue begins to pull away from the teeth and form gaps called “pockets”, that become infected and inflamed. The bones and connective tissues that support the teeth are also affected. Periodontitis can even cause tooth loss if not treated.
Advanced periodontitis is the most severe stage of periodontal disease and comes with some serious consequences and troubles. It occurs when the bone and connective tissues that support the teeth are destroyed. The gums may be severely damaged and may no longer attach to the teeth. Teeth may become loose and eventually fall out or need to be removed by a dental professional.
We want to stress—periodontal disease is preventable! It requires you to keep vigilant with good oral hygiene habits and regular dental visits.
What Causes It?
Periodontal disease is an infection of the gum tissue that surrounds and supports the teeth. It is caused by bacteria that form plaque, which we’ve discussed— that sticky film that constantly forms on your teeth. If not removed, it develops into tartar which is much more difficult to deal with.
The deep cleaning we mentioned earlier to remove tartar is called a debridement. Keep that term in mind, we’ll circle back around to it in a moment.
Periodontal disease begins when plaque is not removed and tartar builds up on the teeth. Tartar is a hard substance that irritates the gums, making them red, swollen, and susceptible to bleeding. As the disease gets advances, the gums pull away from the teeth and form those pockets we talked about.
These pockets collect plaque and become infected. The bones and connective tissues that support the teeth are gradually destroyed. If not treated, periodontal disease can lead to serious problems including tooth decay.
While poor oral hygiene is the number one cause of periodontal disease—a few other factors may increase your risk of developing it:
- Smoking or using other tobacco products
- Poor oral hygiene
- Certain medications that decrease saliva flow (dry mouth)
- Malocclusions in the teeth that make them hard to clean
- Illnesses or conditions such as diabetes, cancer, or HIV/AIDS
- Family history of periodontal disease
What Are The Symptoms?
If you have periodontal disease, you may not experience any symptoms in its early stages. However, as the disease progresses, you may notice your gums are red or bleed easily when you brush or floss your teeth. You may also notice that your gums are receding or pulling away from your teeth, which can make your teeth look longer than usual.
In advanced stages of periodontal disease, the bones and connective tissue supporting your teeth can be destroyed, and your teeth may eventually become loose and fall out.
Treating the Different Stages
As we’ve covered extensively, if plaque and tartar are not removed, they will continue to destroy the gums and bone. Periodontal disease is characterized by three stages – gingivitis, periodontitis, and advanced periodontitis – each with different symptoms and treatment plans.
Gingivitis: This is the earliest stage of periodontal disease. At this stage, the gums become red, swollen, and bleed easily. Gingivitis is caused by plaque build-up on the teeth. A debridement can usually remove plaque, tartar, and prevent gingivitis from progressing to periodontitis.
Periodontitis: Periodontitis is more serious than gingivitis therefore, it takes a more aggressive approach to treat it properly. In addition to redness, swelling, and bleeding gums, periodontitis can progress to Advanced Periodontitis.
This is what causes gum recession, loss of tooth support from the jawbone, and pockets to form between the teeth and gums. Bacteria in plaque cause these changes by releasing toxins that destroy gum tissue and promote inflammation. If left untreated, advanced periodontitis can eventually lead to tooth loss and even deadly infection.
Healthy Habits To Help Avoid These Conditions
Periodontal disease can be prevented by lifestyle choices you make that mitigate the risk of developing this disease. Start by brushing your teeth at least twice a day, floss once per day, and use a good antiseptic mouthwash such as Smart Mouth. This combination of healthy habits will help remove plaque from your teeth and gums and prevent it from building up.
Another way to prevent periodontal disease is to quit smoking. Smoking cigarettes increases your risk of developing periodontal disease. If you smoke, quitting is the best thing you can do for your oral health.
You can also reduce your risk by eating a healthy diet. Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains helps keep your gums healthy. Avoid sugary foods and drinks, which can contribute to tooth decay.
Finally, make sure you get enough vitamin D. Vitamin D helps fight inflammation, which is a major cause of periodontal disease. You can get vitamin D from exposure to sunlight or from taking supplements.
Avoid Periodontal Disease—Schedule Your Checkup With Dr. Vela
Just to recap—periodontal disease is not something to take lightly—even in the early stages like gingivitis. You can easily lower your risk with proper dental care.
Make sure you are keeping up with your dental exams—at least twice a year, but more if you already have gingivitis.
Contact us today to make sure you’re on top of your oral health!