19 Feb 2016 What Is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease, also referred to as gum disease, encompasses a
variety of diseases and health issues, ranging from something as mild as
inflamed gums to something as serious as periodontitis.
These diseases affect the bone and soft tissue that surround and support your teeth.
Gingivitis, a common form of gum disease, is relatively mild; any
swollen or bleeding gums caused by gingivitis can usually be treated by
brushing and flossing your teeth every day as well as getting
appropriate cleanings by a dental professional.
Gum disease is caused by plaque and tartar that builds up on the teeth over time—the
longer they’re allowed to accumulate, the worse the condition gets. In
periodontitis, the tissue around the teeth becomes infected, sometimes
resulting in the breakdown of connective tissue and bone.
How is periodontal disease diagnosed?
While it’s not advised that you diagnose periodontal disease completely
on your own, you can keep an eye out for common symptoms so you know
when to schedule an appointment with your dentist. These symptoms
include the following:
- Teeth that appear longer
- Receding gums
- Gums that are swollen, tender, red or bleeding
- Consistent bad breath that doesn’t respond to typical treatment
- Loose or sensitive teeth
A dentist can diagnose periodontal disease by examining your gums, using
small tools to check your mouth for signs of infection and taking an
Your dentist might also send you to a periodontist, who can provide further specialized treatment for gum disease or infection.
What are typical treatments for gum disease?
After a dentist or periodontist assesses a patient’s gum disease, he or
she will usually recommend that the patient stops smoking immediately,
if applicable, and also keeps up with regular dental home care.
Next, the dentist or periodontist may use intensive gum cleaning, including
processes called scaling and root planing, to get rid of plaque and
tartar and to make the teeth less susceptible to bacteria growth.
Medication such as an antibiotic gel, oral antibiotics or an enzyme
suppressant might be used in conjunction with these methods.
If cleanings and medications are not found sufficient, surgical treatments
like flap surgery (cleaning out tartar from behind the gums) or bone and
tissue grafts may be considered.
How can I prevent gum disease?
If you’re wondering how to prevent periodontal disease, remember that
twice daily brushing (with a fluoride toothpaste) as well as daily
flossing and seeing your dentist for regular cleanings really are key.
For those looking for how to prevent periodontal disease, stopping smoking
significantly decreases the chance of developing such an infection.
Besides smoking, the following risk factors can also increase your risk
of developing a gum infection or disease:
- Genetic predisposition
- Certain medications
- Certain illnesses and/or their treatments
- Hormonal changes in women and girls