According to a report by the CDC, more than half of American adults over the age of 30 have a mild or advanced form of periodontal disease. In a developed nation such as the U.S., it can be hard to understand why the prevalence is so high, but with greater education of the public, we can work to reverse this disconcerting trend towards gum disease.
In this article, we’ll answer some frequently asked questions concerning periodontal disease and periodontitis, an inflammatory condition that characterizes advanced stages of the oral malady.
What is Periodontal Disease?
Also called gum disease, periodontal disease occurs when the tissue that holds your teeth in place becomes infected and inflamed. The primary contributor to developing periodontal disease is poor oral health habits; namely, ineffective or inconsistent brushing and flossing. When the teeth aren’t properly or regularly cleaned, a layer of bacteria accumulates on the teeth, eventually hardening and turning to plaque. In advanced stages of the disease, commonly referred to as periodontitis, the condition can cause extremely unpleasant symptoms including gum bleeding and soreness, high sensitivity in the teeth, and tooth loss.
How Does Periodontal Disease Progress?
As alluded to earlier, when we fail to brush and floss on a regular basis, bacteria and eventually plaque build up in our mouths. Because saliva creates a moist environment, our mouths are excellent breeding grounds for bacteria and other icky microorganisms; that’s why regular cleanings are so important to disease prevention.
If the post-bacterial plaque is not brushed or scraped off in a timely manner, it will further harden into a substance called tartar. This substance cannot be removed through regular brushing and can only be ameliorated by visiting a professional dental hygienist or clinical dentist.
In addition to poor brushing and flossing habits, periodontal disease is much more likely to occur in those who smoke cigarettes. However, there are some factors that may be hereditary and harder to control, but which predispose one to a greater likelihood of disease onset. These include hormonal shifts in women, diabetes (types I and II), the medications one is taking, and a genetic or familial history of periodontal issues.
What are the Signs of Periodontal Disease?
The signs of periodontal disease are unpleasant, often painful, and should never be ignored. These manifestations include:
- Sensitivity and pain when chewing
- Loosening of the teeth
- Bleeding or sensitive gum tissue
- Redness and swelling in the gums
- Chronic halitosis (bad breath)
- “Drawing back” or receding gum lines
If you notice several or more of these symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with your local general dentist as soon as possible to prevent worsening pain and damage to your teeth.
How is Periodontal Disease Treated?
Because periodontal disease is really just an advanced form of gum inflammation and infection, the goal of treatment is to slow and control the progression of the infected area. Your dentist may recommend certain practices or lifestyle changes, such as flossing more frequently or quitting smoking, in order to raise your chances of successful treatment.
What Else Should I Know?
The best way to prevent periodontal disease is by making regular visits to the dentist for check-ups, cleanings, and x-rays. On a daily basis, at home, be sure to floss regularly, as this lessens plaque buildup. If you smoke cigarettes, do your best to quit entirely, or at the very least, cut back on your consumption. And, of course, brush your teeth twice per day, ideally with a fluoride-enhanced toothpaste.
For more information on periodontal disease and how you can improve your oral health, please contact Federal Hill Smiles today!