Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in United States. It is a dental condition that affects almost 50 percent of adults aged 30 and over. This disease goes beyond teeth as it has also been linked to other medical conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, pancreatic cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and Alzheimer’s.
What is Periodontal Disease?
Also known as gum disease, periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues that hold teeth together. The word periodontal basically means ‘around the tooth.’ It starts with bacteria in the mouth which in turn affect the gum tissues surrounding the jawbone and teeth and can cause tooth loss.
The mild version of periodontal disease is called gingivitis. This is when only the gums are infected. Both periodontal and gingivitis need to be treated early to prevent the risk of developing other medical conditions. Both of these conditions can be caught early by your dentist during regular dental checkup visits.
The good news is that periodontitis is largely preventable. It is usually caused by poor oral hygiene that allows plaque to build up on the surface of the teeth and harden. Brushing and flossing at least twice a day can greatly reduce your chance of developing it and can also improve your chances of successful treatment.
Causes Of Periodontal Disease
Normally, our mouths are full of bacteria. When this bacteria gets into contact with mucus and other particles in the mouth, they form a sticky film, known as plaque, around the teeth. Plaque can easily be removed by brushing and flossing regularly. If plaque is allowed to remain on the teeth for a long time, it hardens forming tartar. Tartar can only be removed by a professional dentist through dental cleaning. Lack of proper oral hygiene eventually causes the gums to get infected leading to periodontitis. Risk factors for gum disease include:
- Smoking. This habit is also known to make treatment for periodontitis less successful.
- Certain illnesses such as diabetes and AIDS and their medications.
- Hormonal changes in girls and women.
- Genetic susceptibility.
Signs Of Periodontal Disease
Healthy gums fit snugly around teeth and they are firm and pale pink. Symptoms and signs of periodontitis include:
- Loose permanent teeth
- Changes in bite
- Pus in between the teeth
- Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
- Constant bad breath
- Gums that bleed easily
- Swollen, red gums
If you suspect or have some or all of the above signs, you are advised to visit a qualified dentist as soon as possible. During the dental visit, your dentist will examine your gums for any signs of inflammation. A tiny ruler known as a probe is used to measure and check for any pockets around your teeth. This procedure is painless. Your dentist may also take an X-ray to see if there is any bone loss. If you have a serious case of periodontitis, your dentist will refer you to a periodontist.
Many people suffer from periodontitis but they are unaware because it can be painless. The first step of periodontal disease treatment is usually to control the infection. The types and number of treatment will vary, depending on the extent of the infection. Even while under treatment, a patient is required to keep up good daily oral care at home. You may also be advised to change certain behaviors, such as smoking in order to improve the outcome of the treatment.