We at Lifetime Family Dental have blogged about gum disease, or periodontal disease, several times in the last few years. Most of us are aware that brushing and flossing are the most important dental hygiene habits to maintain good oral health. But we still see many patients who have some stage of periodontal disease. We want to remind you that gum disease is a major factor in tooth loss. So, an important question to ask yourself is: are you at risk for gum disease?
What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is an infection that causes inflammation. It affects the tissues and bone surrounding and supporting your teeth. Healthy gums hold tightly to your teeth; in gum disease, the gums pull away and recede. As the disease progresses, the supporting tissue and bone is damaged. Left untreated, periodontal disease may cause teeth to become loose and fall out. This stage of gum disease is also associated with heart disease, strokes, obesity, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Signs of gum disease
Gum disease may not exhibit any signs at all, but this is rare. You may have gum disease if you notice that your gums bleed when you brush or floss. The gums may also be red and swollen. These are typical signs of early gum disease, called gingivitis. If gingivitis is not treated, you may notice that your gums pull away from your teeth. You may have chronic bad breath from bacterial infection, or pus between your teeth and gums. A sign of advanced periodontitis is loose teeth, a gradually misaligned bite and/or a change in the way your dentures fit. If you have any of these warning signs of gum disease, you need to see us right away. If it is caught early, there is a good chance of successful treatment.
What causes gum disease?
Plaque is the predominant cause of gum disease. Plaque is always present on your teeth. It is a sticky film that coats your teeth and harbors bacteria. Your body’s reaction to the bacteria is what makes your gums swell and bleed. This is a sign that you are fighting infection. If plaque is not removed, it hardens into tartar. A tartar buildup is almost impossible to remove at home. This is why we stress twice yearly professional cleanings.
If it is not removed, the tartar causes swollen, puffy gums that pull away from your teeth, creating pockets for more bacteria to grow. This bacteria produces toxins. As your body fights the toxins, it also begins to break down the gum tissue and bones. Eventually, you may lose your teeth. Your body is trying to defend you from the bacteria, but your teeth and gums become casualties of war.
Are you at risk?
Anyone can develop gum disease. You can decrease your risk factor if you:
- Don’t neglect daily oral hygiene. We will state it again: You need to brush at least twice a day, every day. Two minutes each time is the minimum you should brush. Floss between your teeth down to the gums every day.
- Eat healthy. Diet has a tremendous effect on oral health. Avoid sugar, and limit your intake of processed foods. Try to eat lots of fresh vegetables, fresh fruits and protein.
- Stop using tobacco. Smoking, dipping and chewing significantly increase your risk of gum disease.
- Check your medications. Some prescribed medications can increase the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Steroids and blood pressure medications are prime culprits here. Let us know all the meds you are taking so we can screen them for adverse effects on your oral health.
There are other factors that increase the risk of gum disease. Hormonal imbalance or changes, as in pregnancy, can cause gums to become more sensitive to the bacteria in plaque. You may be genetically predisposed to gum disease if your parents wear dentures, or if you have a family history of dental problems. If so, extra vigilance will be required.
Gum disease can be treated
If you have any signs of gum disease, call us for an appointment. Lifetime Family Dental in Gilbert has all the necessary tools and experience to check, diagnose and treat gum disease. We will do a complete x-ray scan and probe the depth of your gum pockets to determine the health of your bone and gum tissue. Early detection may require only a professional cleaning. More advanced disease may call for a deep cleaning and root planing. Gum disease will rarely go away on its own. But don’t worry: we are here to help you back to optimal oral health.