Periodontal Disease

What is Periodontal Disease?

You probably know that with proper care, your teeth can last a lifetime. But did you know that decay isn’t your teeth’s only enemy? Periodontal disease, which is caused by bacteria that attack your gums, can result in inflammation, bone loss, and eventually the loss of teeth. Plus, the symptoms of this disease aren’t always easy for the lay person to recognize – so you may not even know you have it, particularly if you smoke.

What are some possible symptoms of periodontal disease you may notice? One is bad breath, which often results from sulfur-containing compounds produced by harmful bacteria. Bleeding gums should also be considered a warning sign – contrary to rumor, they aren’t caused by brushing too hard. Redness, swelling, or sensitivity of the gums – along with receding gums or loose teeth – may also be telltale signs of the disease.

Nearly everyone who doesn’t practice good daily oral hygiene will eventually develop gingivitis, the first stage in periodontal disease. So if you need another reason to keep brushing and flossing regularly … this is it! It’s also important to visit your dentist for regular dental examinations and cleanings, particularly if you may be genetically prone to the disease. However, if you do develop periodontal disease, don’t worry – there are a number of effective treatments.

The Dangers of Periodontal Disease

The first symptoms of periodontal disease may not be easy for you to recognize. It isn’t too difficult to overlook your bleeding gums and bad breath - especially if you’re a smoker - because these symptoms often come and go for long periods of time. But these early warning signs may indicate bigger problems ahead.

Periodontal disease often starts as gingivitis, a bacterial infection that causes inflammation of the gum tissues. If left untreated, this condition can progress to periodontitis, which results in loss of the bone that surrounds the teeth. When bone tissue is lost, the teeth and gums begin to separate, forming pockets that provide an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive. Ultimately, the disease may cause tooth loss, painful abscesses, and even systemic inflammation.

Brushing and flossing daily, and having regular professional cleanings are the best way to prevent periodontal disease. If it does develop, a number of treatments are available. Evaluating your oral hygiene techniques and seeking to improve them is a first step at control. Your dentist can also remove plaque and tartar with special tools, in the cleaning technique called “ root planing” or “root debridement.” In some cases, periodontal surgery may be necessary.

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