Nearly half of American adults over the age of 30 are affected by periodontal disease. While it is a common condition, it needs to be taken seriously as it is the leading cause of tooth loss in the developed world. Many conditions are linked to gum disease that you might not think would be related; heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, pancreatic cancer, and even rheumatoid arthritis, among others. Read on to find out if you might be experiencing symptoms of periodontal disease.
What Is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal means “around the tooth.” Periodontal disease, also called periodontitis, is the disease of the gum tissues that surround the teeth and the jawbone that anchors the teeth in place. It starts with bacteria in the mouth, and, if untreated, it can end with tooth loss.
Causes of Gum Disease
There are many factors that lead to periodontal disease but the main culprit is the bacteria in plaque. Plaque bonds with the mucus and other particles normally found in our mouths and then attaches to the tooth. Effective brushing and flossing removes plaque but if the plaque remains after oral hygiene, it will eventually harden and form tartar.
Our immune system recognizes bacteria and attempts to get rid of it. When that happens, our bodies release defense cells to combat the bacteria; often times inflaming the tissue of the gums. This inflammation leads to swelling which allows the gums to pull away from the teeth allowing even more bacteria to enter those pockets.
While this is the main cause of periodontal disease, there are other factors as well that lead to it:
- Smoking and/or tobacco use
- Clenching and grinding of teeth
- Lack of adequate nutrition
- Certain illnesses
- Hormonal changes (puberty, menopause, pregnancy)
Stages of Periodontal Disease
As with any disease process, periodontal disease doesn’t just develop overnight. In its earliest forms, it is very treatable. Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums that has not led to the loss of bone) is the initial presentation that something might be amiss. Left untreated, the inflammation from the build-up of plaque on the teeth and gums can lead to gum disease. As the disease progresses, the pockets of bacteria deepen affecting more gum tissue and bone. Eventually, this progression will lead to the teeth becoming loose and then falling out if not treated.
Symptoms of Periodontal Disease
There are symptoms of that this process is happening before it leads to total tooth loss. Here are some indicators:
- Bleeding gums while brushing/flossing
- New spaces between teeth
- Persistent bad breath or even a bad taste in the mouth from the bacteria
- Loose or shifting teeth
- Infection/pus between the gums
- Swollen or sore gums
- Gums that pull away from the teeth
- Changes in bite patterns (teeth no longer fit together when you bite down)
Time to See the Dentist for Gum Disease?
Because periodontal disease is painless, most may not even be aware that they have this disease. The best way to find and treat this disease is to have regular dental check-ups with x-rays. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms noted above, please see your dentist soon. You can not only improve the health of your mouth by treating periodontal disease but you can improve your overall health as well.
Dr. Natasha Radodsvlkevic is here to help. She can diagnose and treat periodontal disease and even help you prevent it. Good oral hygiene including regular check-ups and cleanings, and in some cases, minimally invasive treatments can protect your smile for many years. Please don’t ignore bleeding gums. This is one of the earliest signs of periodontal disease. Contact us today to arrange an appointment or call 727-360-4302.
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