Periodontal disease, also referred to as gum disease, is a devastating condition that causes harm to your teeth and gums, as well as your overall health. Thankfully, gum disease is preventable and treatable if caught early enough. The CDC estimates that about half of adults in the U.S. have some form of gum disease. But unfortunately, many people are unaware that they have this disease. We’d like you to know what to look for so that you can get professional dental treatment as soon as possible, if you have it, and share ways to help you prevent gum disease from ever starting in the first place.
First, let’s look at how gum disease develops
Gum disease develops because of oral bacteria. Our mouths, no matter how much we brush our teeth, are home to millions of bacteria. Some of these bacteria are good, but some are not.
The bad bacteria feed off sugar and starchy foods we eat and then secret acid onto our teeth. Throughout the day, bacteria and other particles form plaque, a sticky substance that sticks to your teeth. Have you ever gone all day without brushing your teeth, and by the end of the day, they felt grimy when you ran your tongue across them? That’s plaque and left long enough, it hardens into tartar and can slowly damage your oral health, causing infections like gum disease or cavities.
What is tartar, and how do I get rid of it?
Tartar is a hard substance that can be seen on your teeth. It collects stains and doesn’t take long before it develops a yellow or darkened color noticeable between your teeth and along your gum line. Once tartar forms, professional dental cleanings are the only way to remove it from your teeth. However, if you brush twice a day and floss daily as recommended by the American Dental Association, you can reduce your risk of tartar buildup, although everyone gets a little bit of buildup. It’s impossible to avoid tartar entirely, which is why dental cleanings and checkups are necessary.
How to tell if you have gum disease
Gum disease is classified into two different types known as gingivitis and periodontitis. When gingivitis first appears, you may experience red, tender, and inflamed gums that bleed easily, especially when brushing your teeth, flossing, or getting your teeth cleaned at the dentist’s office. You might notice pink in the sink when brushing your teeth. If you do, it could mean that you have gingivitis.
Gingivitis is reversible with good oral hygiene and routine dental cleanings that remove tartar buildup. If you have gingivitis, commit to brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing before bed daily, and seeing your dentist twice a year for checkups and cleanings. However, without proper oral care, gingivitis may worsen, developing into periodontitis.
What does gum disease do to your oral health?
Periodontitis has four stages:
- Stage 1: Initial – Gums may be red, inflamed, and bleed easily. You may also begin developing gum pockets.
- Stage 2: Moderate – More gum pockets develop, and you likely experience chronic bad breath.
- Stage 3: Severe with potential for tooth loss – Teeth become loose as the disease damages your periodontal ligaments holding your teeth in place.
- Stage 4: Severe to the point you experience tooth loss and are at risk of losing all your teeth if not treated.
Gum disease can wreak havoc on your teeth and gums. You may notice that your gums are red and puffy, and you experience bad breath that doesn’t seem to go away, even after brushing. Eventually, your gums may begin receding, which exposes the sensitive roots of your teeth. If you continue ignoring your condition, you may notice some of your teeth become loose, and at some point, you’ll need those bad teeth extracted.
In severe cases of periodontal disease, teeth cannot be saved because there is not enough healthy jawbone to hold the roots of the teeth in place. Bacteria responsible for gum disease affect jawbone health and can enter your bloodstream and travel to other areas of your body, creating a systemic inflammatory response by your immune system. Unfortunately, as the jawbone shrinks away from the disease, it makes wearing dentures difficult.
Gum Disease Symptoms
Gum disease progresses slowly over time. And forgetting to brush your teeth occasionally will not mean that you get gum disease. Periodontitis is an accumulation of bad habits over time and inconsistent oral hygiene practices. While gingivitis can be reversed, periodontitis cannot, although it can be managed, and with the right care, you can prevent it from worsening.
Here are the symptoms of gum disease:
- Receding gums
- Red, puffy gums
- Gums that bleed easily
- Tender gums
- Sensitive teeth
- Loose teeth
- Significant tooth loss
What to do if you think that you have gum disease
If you exhibit symptoms of gum disease, you must seek treatment right away. Start by scheduling a consultation with the dentist. A thorough oral assessment and dental x-rays can determine if you have gum disease and the severity of your condition. We will design a treatment plan specific to your oral health needs.
How is gum disease treated?
The first line of defense in treating gum disease is good oral hygiene. No amount of professional dental treatments or procedures will matter much unless you commit to brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing daily. But at-home oral hygiene is not enough to combat the condition alone.
Most patients with gum disease benefit from deep dental cleanings, which remove tartar and bacteria from below the gum line, at frequent intervals, like 3-4 times a year. Additionally, gum disease responds well to laser gum therapy, which zaps away bacteria and diseased gum tissue without the need for surgery.
Learn more about Gum Disease Diagnosis and Treatment in Jeffersonville, Indiana, and Louisville and Shepherdsville, Kentucky
Protecting your teeth and gums is essential because you rely on them to eat, speak, and chew for the rest of your life. While tooth replacement options exist, nothing is ever going to be as good as your natural teeth. So keep them healthy while you can! If you would like to learn more about gum disease, prevention, or find out if you have this condition, please contact Exceptional Dentistry at (502) 423-7868 or connect with us online.