What causes periodontal disease?
Bacteria, that organism found nearly everywhere, is the primary culprit in periodontal disease. Despite practicing oral hygiene, bacteria will always be present in our oral cavities. Bacteria produces sticky, colorless plaque on the teeth. Brushing and flossing will help eliminate plaque. However, plaque that is not removed will form tartar, a harder substance found on the teeth. Tartar harbors bacteria, which will make it easier for the bacteria to invade your gums, causing gum disease.
What happens when I get gum disease?
Initially, bacteria from your tartar will cause inflammation of the gums, or gingivitis. Gingivitis is seen as swelling and reddening of the gums. Gums bleed easily even during brushing of the teeth. Gingivitis is easily treated by improving your dental hygiene and regular cleaning from a dentist.
If left untreated, gingivitis will develop into periodontitis, a more serious type of infection. Gums pull back from the teeth and form shallow pockets of infection. Bacteria invades deeper into the tissues causing your body's defense, the immune system, to respond. During their epic battle, your teeth become casualties from bacterial toxins and the body's own enzymes, causing them to break down. Damaged teeth become loose and may need to be removed.
How can I avoid gum disease?
Perhaps the most important way to protect yourself from gum disease is to practice oral hygiene. Brushing your teeth diligently twice daily is the most common way of preserving your teeth. Aside from these:
- Avoid cigarettes and tobacco products
- Eat a balanced diet
- Visit your dentist regularly
Who can get periodontal disease?
80% of adults in the US have periodontal disease. Gingivitis appears commonly among teenagers. Periodontitis is common in people 30 to 40 years old. Lastly, men are more commonly affected than women.
How do I know I have gum disease?
Common symptoms of gum disease include:
- Bad breath
- Swollen red gums
- Bleeding gums
- Loose teeth
- Painful or sensitive teeth
What are my treatment options?
If you exhibit any symptoms of gum disease, you should see your dentist right away. Treatment strategies depend on the severity of the condition. For gingivitis, treatment is relatively simple including improving oral hygiene and dental cleaning. Periodontitis is more severe and may need aggressive medical treatment as well as dental management.