Periodontal disease is insidious. It is an infection of the gums that starts out as gingivitis, causing a mild inflammation in the gum tissue. But if it’s not treated, it can advance into a chronic inflammatory disease that can be managed but not cured.
If it’s left untreated, it can lead to serious consequences. Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. It has also been linked to stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. When your gums become infected, your entire immune system is weakened.
At Dental One Associates of Virginia, we have a periodontist on our team who is ready to help save your teeth. A periodontist is the expert when it comes to solving problems with the gums. Our periodontist completed dental school and then received an additional two years of specialized training in diagnosing and treating gum disease.
How Many People Have Periodontal Disease?
Many people have never heard of periodontal disease, but it’s one of the most common infections in the country. About half of Americans over the age of 30 have some form of gum infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In adults over the age of 65, the rate increases to 70 percent.
The word periodontal comes from two Greek terms: Perio, which means around, and dontal, which means tooth. In order to have a healthy mouth, you need to make sure both your teeth and your gums are healthy. Unfortunately, just as the bacteria in plaque and tartar can erode your teeth causing cavities, it can also damage the ligaments and bone holding your teeth in place under the gum line. Regular teeth brushing won’t dislodge tartar; it takes a dental professional to get that off your teeth.
What Causes Periodontal Disease?
There are several factors that can lead to periodontal disease, including:
- Poor dental hygiene
- Crooked teeth or other problems that cause the teeth to not fit together properly
- Poor diet
- Tobacco products
- Genetic predisposition
- Pregnancy and other hormone changes
- Systemic diseases such as diabetes
What Are Common Signs and Symptoms of Periodontal Disease?
One of the reasons why periodontal disease is so common is because many people don’t realize they have it. The disease advances silently, often without pain. Before you know it, your teeth are loose and you don’t know why.
Other times, there may be warning signs. Here are some symptoms of periodontal disease:
- Red, puffy or bleeding gums
- Gum recession
- Persistent bad breath
- Bad taste in the mouth
- Loose or wiggly teeth
- Sores in your mouth
- A change in how your teeth fit together when you bite
- Pus around the teeth
If you have any of these symptoms of gum disease, please call Dental One Associates of Virginia today to schedule an appointment with our periodontist.
What Are the Types of Gum Disease?
The first stage of periodontal disease is gingivitis. This is the only stage that can be reversed with professional dental treatment and good dental hygiene at home.
If left untreated, gingivitis can develop into chronic periodontitis. As it progresses, it breaks down the tissues and bones that support the teeth, causing the gums to separate from the teeth. This creates “pockets.” More bacteria can gather in the pockets around each tooth, leading to further damage to the gum tissue and bone.
Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. It has also been linked to diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and other diseases.
How is Periodontal Disease Treated?
Most people don’t realize that the type of cleaning that insurance companies cover is called a prophylaxis or “healthy mouth” cleaning. That only polishes the tooth above the gum line. To treat bacteria below the gum line, our periodontist or hygienist in Northern Virginia will use a non-surgical technique called scaling and root planing to remove plaque and tartar and smooth the tooth root. If needed, our team can also apply an antibiotic to treat the gum infection.
You may require more frequent teeth cleanings and periodontal maintenance in order to treat the infected areas and keep the gum disease from advancing. Gum disease is a systemic disease; once it’s progressed past gingivitis, it can be managed but not cured.
If the bone supporting your teeth has been destroyed due to periodontal disease, our periodontist may recommend a regenerative procedure like a bone graft, tissue graft, or tissue-stimulating proteins to regenerate bone and tissue.
What Can I Do at Home to Prevent Gum Disease?
The most effective way to prevent gum disease is to have professional teeth cleanings at least twice a year – more if you require periodontal maintenance – and make sure you’re effectively brushing your teeth at home. Brushing your teeth after every meal and flossing at least once a day will prevent plaque and tartar build-up on your teeth and below your gum line.