Periodontal (Gum) Disease

Periodontal (gum) disease is a problem for many Americans. Periodontal disease can range from inflammation to major soft tissue damage. To stop or slow this disease it is important to care for your gums and teeth daily and to visit your dentist office for routine cleanings.

What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal (gum) diseases are infections that if left untreated can cause tooth loss. This chronic bacteria infection can affect a single tooth or multiple teeth. It begins when bacteria (plague) forms on your teeth and the gums become inflamed.

What are the different stages?

  • Gingivitis- The is the mildest form of gum disease. Symptoms include red, swollen gum and easily bleeding. This can be reversed with a professional teeth cleaning and good oral care.
  • Periodontitis- If gingivitis is left untreated the gum disease can progress. The gums pull away from your teeth and become infected. The plaque and bacteria will irritate the gums. Over time, if not treated, the pockets (spaces between teeth and gums) will deepen and the gum tissue and bone will be destroyed. In the worst cases the teeth may become loose and need to be removed.

Who is at risk for gum disease?

Gum disease effects people of all ages and backgrounds. There are a few things that can increase the risk of developing periodontal disease. Children can get gum disease but most often the signs show up in men and women aged 30 or older. Men develop these diseases more often than women.

  • Smoking
  • Hormonal changes in girls/women
  • Diabetes
  • Diseases and treatment (Cancer, AIDS…etc.)
  • Medications that reduce saliva.
  • Genetics

What are the symptoms I should look for?

  • Bad breath even when oral care is good
  • Red, swollen gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Pain
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Receding gums, loose teeth

What will my dentist do?

Scheduling routine visits for teeth cleanings will help prevent plague buildup and also help find and treat any signs of periodontal disease early. If you have any of these symptoms be sure to inform your dentist and get recommendations for treatment. Your dentist will:

  • Ask about your medical history
  • Examine your gums for any sign of swelling/bleeding
  • Check the pocket depth of your teeth (a healthy tooth will have a pocket between 1-3 mm)
  • Remove plague from your teeth
  • Use x-rays to spot any bone loss
  • Recommend treatment options or further steps to prevent gum disease

In order to prevent gum disease from developing (in addition to dental visits)  make sure to follow good oral health care habits at home. Brushing and flossing regularly along with avoiding smoking will help remove plague and keep your mouth healthy.