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What Every Person Needs to Know About Periodontal Disease

Periodontal or gum disease develops when the tissues responsible for holding the teeth in the gums become infected. Poor oral hygiene tends to be the cause of this infection, as a failure to brush and floss properly allows the sticky film known as plaque to accumulate and harden. If left untreated, periodontal disease brings about gums that bleed, chewing problems, and tooth loss over time. What do patients need to know about this common condition? 

An Overview of Periodontal Disease

A person’s mouth is teeming with bacteria. The bacteria, along with other particles present in the oral cavity, form the sticky, colorless film. Brushing and flossing helps to remove plaque, although regular dental cleanings are required to get it all. That’s because plaque that sits on the teeth hardens and forms tartar. Brushing and flossing can’t remove the tartar. This requires the assistance of a dental hygienist. 

    Gingivitis
    Gingivitis serves as the early stage of periodontal disease. At this time, the gums are swollen and red and frequently bleed when the person brushes their teeth. If not treated, this infection develops into periodontal disease. When this happens, bone loss may occur as the gums pull away from the teeth. This condition remains most common in adults and occurs more than many people realize. How common is periodontal disease? 

    The Frequency of Periodontal Disease
    According to the Centers for Disease Control, almost half of all adults 30 years of age and older have periodontitis in some form. As the person ages, their risk of this condition increases. By the time adults reach 65 years of age, more than 70 percent suffer from some form of periodontal disease. 

    Men are more likely to develop periodontal disease. Smokers have the highest risk, and those who live below the federal poverty level have a 65 percent rate of periodontitis. Men and women need to know their risk factors and see their dentist regularly to catch periodontal disease in its early stages and receive treatment. 

    Factors that Contribute to Gum Disease
    Many things contribute to the development of gum disease. Tobacco use remains the most significant, and individuals who use tobacco often find their gum disease treatment fails. However, this serves as only one of several things that may lead to gum disease. Hormonal changes in females, diabetes, medications associated with dry mouth, certain illnesses, and genetic susceptibility all play a role in the development of periodontal disease. 

    Misaligned teeth and fillings that need to be replaced can contribute to gum disease. Furthermore, a bridge that doesn’t fit properly may contribute to periodontitis. Regular dental checkups allow problems such as these to be caught in the early stages before the gums are affected. 

    What Are the Symptoms of Gum Disease?
    Several things suggest a person is suffering from gum disease. This includes bad breath that persists, pain when chewing, and loose or sensitive teeth. The gums are red and tender, and they often bleed when brushed. Furthermore, they can swell because of gum disease. Receding gums and teeth that appear to be getting longer are two additional signs of gum disease. 

    An unpleasant taste in the mouth suggests the person may have periodontal disease. A person might notice a change in their bite when eating if they have this condition, and a change in the way partial dentures fit is a sign that the person needs to see their dentist to learn what is causing this change. 

    Diagnosing Gum Disease
    During a dental checkup, the hygienist examines the teeth and gums to detect any potential problems. They look for inflammation and use a probe to detect any pockets around the teeth. Healthy gums have pockets no bigger than 3 millimeters. They will also talk with the patient to learn about any gum disease risk factors and may take x-rays to look for bone loss. 

    In certain cases, the dentist refers the patient to a periodontist. This specialist works with patients to diagnose and treat gum disease. They may offer treatment options outside of what the dentist provides. 


    Treating Gum Disease
    Dentists and periodontists work to control the infection that is plaguing the gums. The treatment varies based on the extent of the gum disease, and the patient must make oral hygiene a priority at home. In addition, the dentist or periodontist will recommend lifestyle changes to improve the odds of successful treatment. 

    The dental professional may recommend a deep cleaning known as scaling. During this procedure, the dentist or periodontist cleans the root surfaces of the affected teeth below the gum line. This procedure occurs in the dental office and is done in quadrants. Patients may expect the gums to be sore following the cleaning, but this soreness usually goes away within hours. 

    The dental professional may give the patient an antibiotic or other medication to address the infection and inflammation. The dentist or periodontist determines what is appropriate for the specific patient. Always share information with the dental professional regarding other medications being taken, including over-the-counter products and dietary supplements, to reduce the risk of a reaction or other problems. 

    In severe cases, a dental professional must do corrective surgery. Flap surgery is one option, and some patients find they need bone and tissue grafts. This depends on the extent of the bone loss. The time needed for recovery depends on several factors, and the dental professional can provide more information upon examining the mouth and developing a treatment plan. 


    At-Home Care
    To keep the teeth and gums healthy, people need to brush their teeth at least twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste. Regular flossing removes any plaque that has built up between the teeth, and some patients find they need a water flosser, pick, or special brush to ensure they remove all the plaque. Regular dental checkups and professional cleanings remove tartar that is present, and the patient should quit smoking to control the infection and reduce the inflammation. 

    Talk with your dentist at every visit about periodontal disease. Prevention remains the key to good oral health and this includes the gums. If your dentist has diagnosed you with gingivitis or periodontal disease, determine a treatment plan and follow it. Keeping the teeth and gums healthy protects not only your oral health but your overall health. Never neglect them for any reason.