A periodontal disease is an advanced form of gum disease that attacks tissue and bone around the teeth. Good oral hygiene and a healthy diet are not enough to prevent this illness as several other variables increase a person’s risk. Several treatment options exist, including dental procedures that clean the affected teeth below the gum line. 


This article offers details on gum disease – what it is, how it happens, the symptoms, and how to prevent it.


We encourage anyone with sore or bleeding gums to schedule a visit. Gum problems are not only unpleasant, but they can lead to serious health problems and tooth loss. Our expert staff can help you solve your gum issues and avoid problems in the future.


What Is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease, also known as periodontitis, is a type of gum disease caused by plaque buildup on a person’s teeth. Plaque is a film composed of saliva, food particles, and bacteria that forms on teeth constantly. Eating sugary or starchy foods can lead to increased plaque buildup, but the plaque constantly develops over time.


The bacteria attack a person’s teeth and gums in several ways. In the beginning, swollen or red gums appear. Gums may also bleed easily. Flossing and even brushing the gums may produce blood. As gum disease advances, it causes gums to pull away from teeth creating loose teeth that move.


Periodontal disease attacks bones and tissues below the gum. The periodontal ligament connects a tooth to the alveolar bone. The ligament and bone can both be infected and seriously damaged by plaque bacteria. Over time, the damage shows up when teeth become loose and move.


Effective oral hygiene practices and regular cleanings tend to eliminate most plaque buildup, but not all. Sometimes, the bacteria attack gums in such a way as to cause redness, swelling, or sensitivity. This is gingivitis, which is a common precursor to periodontal disease.


Chronically poor oral hygiene can lead to periodontal disease, but various lifestyle and disease factors put a person at higher risk of gum disease.


What Causes Periodontal Disease?

Bacteria in plaque cause periodontal disease over time. A variety of health and lifestyle factors can increase the risk of periodontal disease, including:


  • Hormonal changes associated with puberty, pregnancy, or menopause
  • Cancer, respiratory disease, arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders
  • Medicines that dry out the mouth
  • Ineffective brushing or lack of flossing
  • Smoking, vaping and chewing tobacco
  • A poor diet and lack of vitamin C


Most adults have one of these risks at some point in their lives, which means that most adults might develop gum disease even if their oral hygiene is excellent and their diets are healthy.


What Are The Symptoms Of Periodontal Disease? 

An exam is usually needed to diagnose gum disease, but some warning signs of a serious gum problem are easy to detect at home. 


The signs of periodontitis include:

  • Bleeding gums
  • Painful chewing
  • Gums that are red, swollen, or tender
  • Receding gums
  • Bad breath or persistent foul taste in the mouth
  • Changes in how your teeth fit together, which is a possible sign of bone loss
  • Pockets or gaps at the base of the teeth, including between teeth


Gum soreness and bleeding are only two relatively minor side effects of gum disease. Untreated gum disease can cause bone loss, tooth loss, and other diseases. The bacteria that attack a patient’s gums invoke a response from the immune system. 


Chronic stress on the immune system can make the patient more susceptible to other diseases. Over time the bacteria can damage bone and destroy some gum tissue, leading to losing one or more teeth.


How Can Periodontal Disease Be Prevented?

Good dental hygiene, combined with regular cleanings by a dentist or a dental hygienist, can prevent most cases of gum disease. To minimize the risk of periodontitis, dentists recommend brushing teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing daily. 


Over-the-counter mouth rinse can also help to eliminate plaque. However, there is no real substitute for regular, professional cleaning. Using a toothpaste and mouth rinse approved by the American Dental Association will deliver better results.


Some patients may be prescribed a shorter interval between dental exams. These frequent checkups and cleanings are crucial for treating a gum problem early before the infection gets to the jaw bone.


How Is Periodontal Disease Treated?

A dental exam is the only reliable way to assess gum disease. During an exam, the dentist checks teeth and gums for signs of excessive tenderness or the more serious sign that the gums are receding. Early detection is crucial because periodontal disease can be hard to cure. It also leads to other health problems over time. Gingivitis is relatively easy to detect and treat.


If the dentist detects periodontal disease, they will devise a treatment plan and coach the patient on treating the condition. The dentist will probably recommend a follow-up visit. Gingivitis can usually be treated by a thorough, professional cleaning and some improved oral care at home. Periodontal disease may be treated with or without surgery. In some cases, the bacteria have done enough damage that the patient needs surgery to repair damage to their gum tissue.


Processes called scaling and root planing is commonly used to treat gum disease. Scaling is a procedure where the dentist scrapes away plaque below the gum line. Root planing is a somewhat more invasive process of smoothing the root of an affected tooth. A dentist may perform one or both procedures on relatively advanced cases. A thorough cleaning can often treat gum disease.


After a procedure, the patient can typically return to a normal oral care routine. Regular cleanings are recommended. Brushing and flossing with an ADA-approved toothpaste and flossing daily are important preventative measures. Finally, the patient may need to make some lifestyle changes to control risk factors like smoking and diabetes.


Final Thoughts

If you have sensitive or swollen gums and worry about gum disease, we encourage you to contact our office for a checkup. We provide a full range of family and cosmetic dentistry services, areas, and most insurance firms. Don’t hesitate to make an appointment via our online form or by contacting our friendly office staff.

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