The simplest form of gum disease is gingivitis, which presents commonly as inflamed and bleeding gums, a condition that is reversible with effective oral hygiene practices and professional dental treatment. If untreated in some susceptible people gingivitis can develop into periodontitis which can damage the bone and tissue that support the teeth, causing tooth loss.
Periodontal disease is caused by plaque that forms on teeth. Plaque will irritate gums, causing them to become red, tender, and swollen. If not removed, plaque hardens to form tartar. Over time, the tissue that attaches the gums to the teeth is destroyed and the gums pull away form the teeth. Small pockets form between the teeth and gums and fill with more plaque. Eventually, the jawbone supporting the teeth is destroyed.
Periodontal disease is usually painless so most adults are unaware they have it. But if you are diagnosed early, your teeth can be saved.
Other causes of periodontal disease are smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol, improper use of dental floss and toothpicks, an unbalanced diet, vitamin C deficiency, pregnancy and certain medications.
Warning signs to look out for are gums that bleed when you brush your teeth, red, swollen or receding gums, pus between teeth, loose teeth, bad breath, and a change in your bite or the way your dentures fit.
The type of treatment required depends on the stage of the disease. In the early stages your dentist will recommend professional cleaning followed by daily brushing and flossing. When gum disease is more serious, your dentist may have to remove the infected gum tissue. Surgery can sometimes involve reshaping the bone around the tooth or removing a portion of the bone. In the most serious cases, you may lose a tooth. Your dentist will advise you on the best way to replace it.
Who Gets Periodontal Disease?
People usually don’t show signs of gum disease until they are in their 30s or 40s. Men are more likely to have periodontal disease than women. Although teenagers rarely develop periodontitis, they can develop gingivitis, the milder form of gum disease. Most commonly, gum disease develops when plaque is allowed to build up along and under the gum line.
Periodontal Health and Disease Progression
- Gums will be coral pink in color
- Gums will hug the teeth tightly
- Gums will not bleed on probing
- Gum pockets all measure to a normal 3mm or less
- A mild inflammation of the gums caused by plaque build-up
- Gums may be red and/or sore
- Gums will bleed while brushing or during probing
- Inflamed sensitive gums
- Possible bad breath/taste
- No damage to the supporting bone in this stage
- If left untreated, the gum infection damages the bone and supporting tissues
- Gum separates from the tooth and the bone level deteriorates
- Gums recede farther and separate
- Pus may develop, bone loss continues, and teeth may loosen or fall out
- Teeth may become mobile or loose
- Constant bad breath and bad taste
- Pockets larger than 6mm deep
- Some teeth may need to be extracted
- Severe bone loss and tooth support
Signs of Periodontal Disease
- Gums that bleed when you brush or floss your teeth
- Red, swollen or tender gums
- Pus between your teeth
- Pain when chewing
- Calculus or tartar build-up
- Changes in bite
- Loose or shifting teeth
- Bad breath or chronic bad taste
- Teeth sensitivity to hot or cold
- Gums that recede or gums that shrink away from your teeth
Periodontal Disease and Systemic Health
Gum disease is one of the main causes of tooth loss and is highly prevalent; people are often unaware they have it because it is not painful and doesn’t affect their daily life, but if left untreated the impact can be serious. It has also been linked to cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes as bacteria can enter the bloodstream through the mouth and spread inflammation through the body. It is well established that there is a strong connection between periodontal disease and other chronic conditions such as osteoporosis, diabetes, heart disease and strike as well as respiratory issues. Periodontal disease is an inflammatory condition caused by bacteria within pockets around teeth that can cause bone and soft tissue loss Periodontal bacteria can enter the bloodstream and travel to major organs and begin new infections and chronic systemic health issues.
Research is suggesting that this may:
- Contribute to the development of heart disease, the nation's leading cause of death.
- Increase the risk of stroke.
- Increase a woman's risk of having a preterm, low birth weight baby.
- Pose a serious threat to people whose health is compromised by diabetes, respiratory diseases, or osteoporosis.
Don't Ignore Your Oral Health
If you value your oral as well as your overall health, a periodontal evaluation is a good idea. Sometimes the only way to detect periodontal disease is through a periodontal evaluation. A periodontal evaluation may be especially important if you:
- Notice any symptoms of periodontal disease.
- Have heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease or osteoporosis.
- Are thinking of becoming pregnant.
- Have a family member with periodontal disease. Research suggests that the bacteria that cause periodontal disease can pass through saliva. This means the common contact of saliva in families puts children and couples at risk for contracting the periodontal disease of another family member.
- Have a sore or irritation in your mouth that does not get better within two weeks.