Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is a common condition that affects half of American adults over age 30. In fact, it’s the leading cause of tooth loss in the developed world! In addition to affecting the teeth, gum disease has been linked to rheumatoid arthritis, pancreatic cancer, stroke, cardiovascular problems, and infection elsewhere in the body. It’s important that you are able to recognize signs of gum disease so you can work to prevent it and keep your smile and body healthy for years to come.
What Is Periodontal Disease?
The word “periodontal” means “around the tooth.” Periodontal disease occurs when the gums are infected and become inflamed. It starts with bacteria in the mouth, and can end in tooth loss if left untreated.
Causes of Periodontal Disease
The main cause of periodontal disease is bacteria in the plaque that builds up on teeth. The bacteria in our mouths bond with mucus and other particles to form plaque on teeth. The plaque that isn’t removed by brushing and flossing hardens and forms tartar.
To get rid of the bacteria, our immune systems release defense cells that cause areas around the teeth to become inflamed. As our gums swell, they pull away from the teeth, creating small pockets allowing more bacteria to settle in.
Other factors that could lead to periodontal disease include poor nutrition, stress, tooth grinding, smoking/tobacco use, or even hormonal changes like puberty, menopause, or pregnancy.
Stages Of Periodontal Disease
Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal disease, and many of us already experience this occasionally. It is a mild and reversible form of periodontitis, but it does not always lead to full-on gum disease. Plaque builds up on the teeth and inflames the gums, but there is no bone loss yet.
When the infection has reached the underlying bone, the patient is diagnosed with periodontal disease. Gum inflammation creates even bigger pockets for bacteria to settle into, which can eventually reach the bone. Eventually, teeth become loose and fall out.
What Are the Symptoms of Periodontal Disease?
- Gums that bleed easily while brushing and flossing.
- Swollen or tender gums.
- Gums that pull away from teeth.
- Changes in the way teeth fit together upon biting down.
- Deep pockets between teeth and gums.
- Loose or shifting teeth.
- Pus between your teeth and gums.
- Persistent bad breath or a constant bad taste in the mouth.
- New spaces developing between your teeth.
When You Should See a Dentist
Periodontal disease can be painless; some people don’t even know they have it. A periodontal evaluation with x-rays is the best way to find and treat gum disease. If it’s been a while since you’ve been to the dentist, or if you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, see your dentist soon. Taking care of your periodontal disease now not only improves the health of your mouth but can also have a have a positive effect on your overall health.
Gum Disease Treatment in Herndon, VA
Dr. Mark Jefferies provides comprehensive preventative dentistry for the whole family. Regular cleanings and check-ups combined with minimally invasive treatments will protect your teeth and gums from periodontal disease for years to come. Your bleeding gums might be a sign of periodontal disease. Don’t wait to find out! Contact us online today to schedule an appointment or call (703) 570-1152.