Gum disease, which is called periodontal disease, is caused by bacteria that attack the tissues around the teeth. The first stage of gum disease is gingivitis, and that’s the only stage that is reversible.
If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, which results in bone loss around your teeth. As the bone tissue is lost, the gum tissues detach from the teeth and form little pockets that provide an even better place for bacteria to thrive. Without treatment, the infection will worsen and the teeth will become loose and fall out. Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults over the age of 35.
Signs and Symptoms of Periodontal Disease
You may have periodontal disease and not even know it. Many people have no symptoms until it’s in advanced stages. Other people may notice:
Bleeding gums: Bleeding when you’re flossing or brushing is never normal. Any bleeding should be considered a warning sign of gum disease and you should see a dentist.
Bad breath: It’s very easy for plaque to collect in the spaces between your teeth, creating the perfect living conditions for bacteria that produce sulfur containing compounds, resulting in bad breath.
Redness, puffiness or swelling of the gums: Inflammation is usually one of the first visible signs of infection.
Receding gums: If you notice that your teeth look longer than they used to, it may be that your gum tissue has receded, exposing some of your tooth roots.
Sensitivity: If there is gum recession, the exposed roots may become sensitive to hot or cold.
Loose teeth: When gum disease leads to bone loss, the teeth can become loose.
Periodontal Disease Treatment
Gum disease, like diabetes, is a systemic disease. Once it has advanced beyond gingivitis, it can be managed, but not reversed. Fortunately, our dentists have a number of ways to manage gum disease to keep it from getting worse. These will include a cleaning technique known as scaling, root planing or debridement to remove the plaque and bacteria from beneath the gum line. Your dentist may also recommend antibiotics or laser therapy to eliminate the infection. If needed, your general dentist may recommend you see a gum specialist called a periodontist to discuss surgical and non-surgical treatment options.
The best way to prevent periodontal disease is to brush and floss your teeth effectively every day. Regular dental checkups and professional cleanings every 3 or 4 or 6 months are also an important part of maintaining periodontal health; our team can reach areas that your toothbrush and floss can’t.
The first step is to get the clinical treatment you need to treat the infection