Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is a bacterial infection of the gums and the bone underneath the affected area.
When people have periodontal disease, their gums become inflamed and can bleed when brushed. In severe cases, real damage can be done to the soft tissues that support teeth, causing tooth loss.
What are some causes of Periodontal Disease?
- Age — Health data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows that more than 70 percent of people who have periodontal disease are 65 and older.
- Clenching and grinding of teeth — This puts extra pressure on the soft tissue that supports your teeth, speeding up the destruction of the gums.
- Gum Irritants — Some lifestyle choices such as having lip or tongue piercings can irritate the gums.
- Genetic Predisposition — Periodontal disease might be influenced by genetic factors. Improving your oral health and speaking to your dentist can still help ease the issue.
- Inadequate Oral Health — If you’re brushing your teeth too hard or not at all, it can lead to plaque buildup and periodontal disease.
- Medication — Some drugs cause dry mouth, which is a risk factor that can lead to gum disease.
- Poor nutrition — A diet low in nutritious foods can lower the body’s ability to fight off illness.
- Smoking — Tobacco use causes many health issues, including oral health problems.
- Stress — Stress can make it harder for the body to ward off bacteria, including those in your mouth.
Types of Gum Disease
There are two common forms: gingivitis and periodontitis.
Gingivitis is the first sign of periodontal disease and one of the most common reasons for tooth loss. Some experts believe that over half the U.S. population have some form of gingivitis. Some symptoms of gingivitis include:
- Receding gum line
- Gums bleed after you brush or floss your teeth
- Swollen or tender gums
- Bad breath or bad taste in your mouth that doesn’t go away
- Gums change from a pink color to a red color
Periodontitis is an extreme form of gum disease. The symptoms of periodontitis are the same as gingivitis. However, periodontitis creates deep pockets between your teeth and gum line. As bacteria and debris fill in the pockets, it may cause your teeth to loosen and fall out.
When gingivitis is left untreated, it can develop into periodontitis. Bacteria from plaque releases toxins, irritating the gums. The body reacts to the toxins with chronic inflammation. The inflammation causes the tissue and bones surrounding the teeth to degrade.
The gums will move away from the teeth, leaving pockets that can become infected. Left untreated, periodontitis can cause even deeper decay in the gums, tissue, and teeth. The most common forms of periodontitis include:
- Aggressive Periodontitis (quick loss of gum attachment and bone decay)
- Chronic Periodontitis (inflammation, pockets in the gums, quick loss of gum attachment and recession of the gums)
- Necrotizing Periodontitis (more common in conjunction with ongoing systemic conditions such as a compromised immune system, HIV, and malnutrition)
How to Treat Periodontal Disease
Cleaning the plaque and tartar from the gums greatly increases dental health and decrease chance of disease. Regular cleanings can counteract inflammation already in play.
Scaling and root planing
This is a deep dental cleaning that requires anesthetic. Once under sedation, a dental health professional will go underneath the gum line to scrape away any residue. This process is known as scaling. The root is also planed, or smoothed over, from any damage. This allows the gums to reattach to the teeth.
Pocket reduction surgery
Any infected areas in the periodontal tissue are removed under this procedure. You are placed under local anesthetic for this surgery. When the affected gum tissue is clean, the tissue is put back into place. The root can also be smoothed over for the gums to attach.
If periodontal disease has affected your mouth, your jaw may need strengthening. A strategic bone graft fortifies the area and gives stability to the tissue and teeth. The formerly infected area is encouraged to regrow new and fresh tissue.
Guided tissue regeneration
When any bone supporting the teeth has been destroyed, a periodontist can fix it with regeneration. By inserting a small piece of gum-like fabric, the gum and bone are encouraged to grow together. The gums stay where they should and the tissue grows anew.
Gum Disease Treatment
Luckily, gum disease can be cured by proper dental medicine and oral health. Below are some steps you should always take to ensure prevention of or the solution to gum disease:
- Brush and Floss Regularly — The best means of improving dental health is regular brushing and flossing. This includes brushing and flossing the gum line!
- Get a Toothbrush With Soft Bristles — Toothbrushes with harder bristles can irritate the gum line further. Make sure your toothpaste has fluoride to prevent plaque buildup, which can infect gums.
- Maintain a Nutritious Diet — A diet with high levels of vitamins — especially Vitamins C and E — helps boost your immune system and reduces the risk of dental infection.