Periodontal disease affects over half of American adults over 30, making it a common dental condition and the leading cause of tooth loss in the developed world. Beyond tooth loss, periodontal disease is linked to Alzheimer’s rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, cancer, stroke, and heart disease. Periodontal disease is easily prevented, but you may be surprised to learn you are already experiencing symptoms.
What Is Periodontal Disease?
You may be familiar with this disease as “gum disease,” as the word periodontal means “around the tooth.” Periodontal disease is disease of the gum tissues around the teeth and jawbone that anchors teeth in place. It starts with bacteria in the mouth and can end with tooth loss and other health problems.
Causes of Periodontal Disease
The main cause of periodontal disease is bacteria in plaque that is left untreated. The bacteria in our mouths bond with mucus and other particles to form plaque on teeth. The plaque that isn’t removed by brushing and flossing hardens and forms tartar.
Our immune systems react to oral bacteria in the gums just like they would to bacteria in the rest of the body. They release defense cells that cause the areas around the teeth to become swollen and inflamed. When gums are swollen, it creates little pockets that allow more bacteria to settle in.
Other factors that could contribute to gum disease include smoking, hormonal changes, genetics, poor nutrition, stress, or clenching or grinding teeth.
Gum Disease Stages
Gingivitis occurs when gums are inflamed but the inflammation has not reached the jaw bone. You might notice gingivitis when your gums bleed when brushing your teeth. Gingivitis is a mild and reversible form of periodontitis, but not all gingivitis leads to gum disease.
Periodontal disease is diagnosed when the destruction has reached the underlying bone. The pockets created by gum inflammation deepen and more gum tissue and bone are affected. Eventually, due to loss of support, the teeth can become loose and fall out.
What Are the Symptoms of Periodontal Disease?
- Gums that bleed easily while brushing and flossing.
- Swollen or tender gums.
- Gums that pull away from teeth.
- Changes in the way teeth fit together upon biting down.
- Deep pockets between teeth and gums.
- Loose or shifting teeth.
- Pus between your teeth and gums.
- Persistent bad breath or bad taste in the mouth.
- New spaces developing between your teeth.
When You Should See a Dentist
Periodontal disease is often painless, and some people don’t realize they have it. This is why annual X-rays are important, so your dentist can see the underlying bone structure. If it has been a while since you’ve seen your dentist, or if you have any of the symptoms described above, see your dentist soon. Gum disease can extend beyond the mouth and negatively affect your overall health.
Ridgetop Dental is a Sterling, VA dental office offering comprehensive dental care to patients of all ages. Our goal is to get our patients on the right track to having healthy teeth and gums. Contact us online to schedule your appointment or call (703) 520-7410.