Periodontal Disease (Gum Disease)

Healthy Tooth vs Tooth with Gum Disease

Periodontal disease is an infection that affects the tissues and bone that support teeth. Healthy gum tissue fits like a cuff around each tooth. When someone has periodontal disease, the gum tissue pulls away from the tooth. As the disease worsens, the tissue and bone that support the tooth are destroyed. Over time, teeth may fall out or need to be removed. Treating periodontal disease in the early stages can help prevent tooth loss.

According to recent findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), half of Americans aged 30 or older have periodontal disease. This equals approximately 64.7 million Americans.

Periodontal infection is the cause of 75% of all adult tooth loss

Periodontal Disease and Whole-body Health

Tooth loss is not the only possible problem posed by periodontal disease. There may be a link between periodontal disease and heart disease and stroke. High stress may also be tied to periodontal disease.

Research has suggested that there is a link between diabetes and gum disease. People with diabetes are more likely to have periodontal problems, possibly because people with diabetes are more susceptible to contracting infections. In fact, periodontal disease is often considered one of the major complications of diabetes.

Research has also found that bacteria that grow in the oral cavity can be aspirated into the lungs to cause respiratory diseases such as pneumonia, especially in people with periodontal disease.

Signs of Periodontal Disease

It can be hard to know if you have periodontal disease. You can have periodontal disease without clear symptoms. Potential signs of periodontal disease include:

  • gums that bleed when you brush or floss
  • red, swollen, or tender gums
  • gums that have pulled away from your teeth
  • bad breath that does not go away
  • loose or separating teeth
  • a change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  • pus between your gums and teeth

 Your gums can look and feel quite normal and yet deep pockets of periodontal infection can still be present. To be certain about any periodontal disease, have your periodontist examine you for signs of infection.

Causes of Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is caused by plaque, a sticky film that is always forming on your teeth. Plaque contains bacteria that produce harmful toxins. If teeth are not cleaned well, the toxins can irritate and inflame the gums.

Inflamed gums can pull away from the teeth and form spaces called pockets. The pockets provide a home for more bacteria. If the infected pockets are not treated, the disease may progress causing damage to the bone and other tissues that support the teeth.

Plaque can be removed if you brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily. If plaque stays on teeth, it can harden into a rough surface called tartar. Tartar is removed when teeth are cleaned at the dental office.

Risk Factors for Periodontal Disease

There are several factors that increase the risk of developing periodontal disease including:

  • Smoking or use of tobacco
  • Diseases that affect the whole body such as diabetes
  • Certain medications such as steroids, antiseizure drugs, blood pressure drugs, birth control pills, drugs that reduce saliva, and cancer therapy drugs
  • Changes in the body's hormone levels
  • Genetics

Who is a Periodontist?

A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of periodontal disease, and in the placement of dental implants. Periodontists are also experts in the treatment of oral inflammation. Periodontists receive extensive training in these areas, including additional years of education beyond dental school. They are familiar with the latest techniques for diagnosing and treating periodontal disease, and are also trained in performing cosmetic periodontal procedures.

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