What is Periodontal Disease?
When it comes to oral health, most of us are familiar with cavities and tooth decay, but did you know that gum disease is one of the most common dental problems? Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is a bacterial infection that affects the gums and the bone that supports the teeth. In fact, periodontal disease or “periodontitis” is the most common cause of adult tooth loss in the United States.
Understanding What Healthy Gums Should Look Like
For most people, healthy gums should be light pink in color, firm, and tightly fitted around the teeth. A small percentage of people may have dark-pigmented gums or a mix of brown and coral pink. Healthy gums should not bleed when you brush or floss. If you notice that your gums are red, swollen, or bleed easily, it could be a sign of gingivitis or a periodontal infection.
Gingivitis: The Earliest Stage of Gum Disease
Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease and is characterized by inflammation of the gums. Minor gingivitis causes redness, bleeding, and puffiness along the edges of your gumlines. It occurs when plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, accumulates on the teeth and isn’t removed thoroughly each day.
Plaque can be removed by brushing and flossing regularly, but if it is not removed, it can harden into tartar, which can only be removed by a dental professional. Since plaque is full of bacteria, it irritates your gums and triggers an immune response resulting in inflammation.
The good news is that gingivitis is reversible. But if it progresses into a more advanced stage of gum disease, it can cause serious side effects.
When Gingivitis Evolves into Periodontitis (Periodontal Disease)
If left untreated, gingivitis can and almost always progresses into periodontitis, a more severe form of gum disease. Periodontal disease occurs when the gum tissue pulls away from the teeth, creating pockets around the roots of teeth that become infected with bacteria. Over time, these pockets can deepen, and the bacteria can destroy the bone that supports the teeth. This can lead to tooth mobility, loss, chronic bad breath, and other dental problems.
Dental Side-Effects of Periodontal Disease
Periodontal disease can cause a variety of dental side effects, including:
- Gum recession: the gums pull away from the teeth, exposing the root of the tooth.
- Tooth sensitivity: exposed tooth roots can cause sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures.
- Loose teeth: the destruction of the bone that supports the teeth can cause them to become loose and eventually fall out.
- Bad breath: bacteria that accumulate in the pockets between the teeth and gums can cause bad breath.
- Tooth decay: exposed tooth roots are more likely to develop cavities because they aren’t covered by a protective layer of enamel.
Health Risks of Gum Disease
Periodontal disease is not just a dental problem; it has been linked to other health problems as well. Research has shown that gum disease is associated with an increased risk of:
- Heart disease: the bacteria that cause gum disease can enter the bloodstream and increase the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and heart attack.
- Stroke: gum disease has been linked to an increased risk of stroke.
- Diabetes: people with diabetes are more likely to develop gum disease, and gum disease can make it harder to control blood sugar levels.
- Pregnancy complications: gum disease has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
- Infertility: both men and women may experience reproductive health issues if they have untreated gum disease, including difficulty trying to conceive and erectile dysfunction.
See a Dentist Regularly for Periodontal Screenings
Regular dental check-ups are essential for maintaining good oral health and preventing gum disease. During your dental exam, our Clear Lake dentist will examine your gums, teeth, and supporting bone structures for signs of gum disease. They may also perform a periodontal screening, which measures the depth of the pockets between your teeth and gums, followed by a set of X-rays to visualize the bone in your jaws. This can help us detect gum disease in its early stages when it is easier to treat.
Since gum disease is a chronic state of infection, it requires different types of treatment than gingivitis, such as a deep cleaning or periodontal therapy.
Schedule Your Exam Today
If you notice any signs of gum disease, such as red, swollen, or bleeding gums, it is important to see our Clear Lake dentists as soon as possible. Early treatment can help prevent gum disease from progressing into a more serious issue, such as tooth loss. Call Rosas Family Dentistry today to schedule.