Periodontal disease, also known as periodontitis or gum disease, is a common dental ailment that affects one out of every two American adults aged 30 and over. That is a significant number. In fact, periodontitis is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults in the developed world. But the danger goes beyond your teeth, periodontal disease has also been linked to Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, pancreatic cancer, diabetes, stroke, heart disease and more!
You may be thinking, “I would know if I had gum disease. Wouldn’t I?” You might be surprised to learn you may have a few of the symptoms already.
What Is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal means “around the tooth” in Greek. Periodontal disease, also called periodontitis, is an infection of the gum tissues that surround the teeth and the jawbone tissues that anchor the teeth in place. It starts with bacteria in the mouth, and, if untreated, it can end with tooth loss.
Causes of Periodontal Disease
The main cause of periodontal disease is bacteria in plaque that is allowed to go unchecked. The naturally-occuring bacteria in our mouths bond with mucus and leftover food particles to form plaque on teeth. The plaque that isn’t removed by brushing and flossing eventually hardens and becomes tartar.
To eliminate the bacteria, our immune systems release defensive cells that cause the infected areas around the teeth to become inflamed. As our gum tissues swell, they pull away from the teeth creating little pockets that allow more bacteria to settle in.
Other factors that could lead to periodontal disease include:
- Smoking/tobacco use
- Hormonal changes (puberty, pregnancy, or menopause)
- Certain illnesses
- Poor nutrition
- Clenching or grinding teeth
Stages Of Periodontal Disease
Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gums without loss of bone. At this stage the periodontitis is still mild and reversible, but not all gingivitis progresses to this stage. Plaque builds up on teeth and gums can become inflamed, but teeth are still firmly in place in their sockets. If left untreated, this gum inflammation can lead to full-on gum disease.
Periodontal disease is when the destruction has reached the bone tissue beneath the gums. The pockets created by the inflammation of gums deepen and more gum tissue and bone are attacked. 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
Because periodontal disease can be painless, some people don’t even know they have it until it is too late to reverse. A periodontal evaluation by your dentist, complete with x-rays is the best way to diagnose gum disease so it can be treated early. If it’s been a while since you’ve been to the dentist, or if you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. Treating your periodontal disease now not only improves the health of your mouth but can also prevent more serious overall health problems down the road.
Dr. Robinson of Tarheel Dentistry in Chapel Hill, NC wants to help you prevent, diagnose, and treat periodontal disease. Using a combination of routine cleanings and check-ups and minimally invasive treatments, he can protect your teeth from periodontal disease. Your bleeding gums might be a sign of oncoming periodontal disease so don’t wait to find out! Contact us online today to schedule an appointment or call (919) 551-8847.