Periodontal disease, more commonly known as gum disease, is an infection of the gums that surround your teeth. Gum disease is actually one of the most common reasons for tooth loss in otherwise healthy adults. Because it can be nearly pain free and show little symptoms, many patients do not even know that they may have gum disease. During your regular dental exams, your dentist will check for signs and symptoms of periodontal disease and measure the space between your teeth and gums.
What causes gum disease?
Gum disease is most commonly caused by a buildup of plaque (bacteria that sticks to the surface of teeth). When plaque is allowed to sit on the teeth for a period of time (and is not removed by regular flossing, brushing, and dental checkups), it will continue to build up and damage the gums. Periodontal disease forms just below the gum line, creating tiny pockets that separate the gum tissue from your teeth. Periodontal disease is categorized into two stages: gingivitis and periodontitis.
Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease and can be detected when gums become red, swollen, and bleed easily. Luckily, gingivitis is treatable and can usually be reversed by daily oral hygiene practices such as brushing and flossing.
Periodontitis is an advanced stage of gingivitis that has been left untreated. The gums and supporting bone tissue can become seriously damaged beyond reversing. Gums infected by periodontitis can leader to loose teeth, teeth that fall out, or need to be removed by a dentist.Risk FactorsCertain factors can put patients at risk for periodontal disease, including:
- Tobacco use (smoking, chewing tobacco, etc.)
- Certain medications such as steroids, anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, calcium channel blockers, and oral contraceptives
- Improperly fitted bridges, crowns, full dentures, or partial dentures
- Crooked teeth
- Old fillings that need replacement
Treatments for gum disease depend on the severity of the individual case. While prevention is always the best treatment, typical treatments for gum disease include:
- Non-surgical methods including at-home periodontal trays, mouth washes, antibiotics, and scaling & root planing (deep cleaning)
- Periodontal surgery and laser gum surgery
- Extractions, dental implants, filling replacements, and other restorative dentistry methods
Seeing your dentist regularly for checkups and periodontal examinations is important for maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Practicing good oral hygiene at home can significantly reduce your risk of getting gum disease. Brushing regularly, flossing, not smoking, and regularly visiting the dentist can help keep your smile healthy. We’ll work with you to develop a plan that is customized to your needs and help prevent, diagnose, and treat gum disease.