Gum disease — also known as periodontal disease or periodontitis — is a prevalent condition that affects one out of every two American adults aged 30 and over. In fact, gum disease the leading cause of adults in the developed world losing their teeth.
But there are more than teeth at risk here, periodontitis has also been linked to Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, pancreatic cancer, diabetes, stroke, heart disease and more! You might be thinking, “I would know if I had gum disease.” You may be surprised to learn you are already experiencing a few symptoms yourself.
What Is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal (meaning “around the tooth” in Greek) disease, also called periodontitis, is an inflammation and infection of the gum tissues that surround the teeth and the jawbone that anchors the teeth in place. It begins with bacteria in the mouth causing infections in your gum tissue and, if left untreated, can end with bone and tooth loss.
Causes of Periodontal Disease
The main culprit behind gum disease is bacteria in plaque that is allowed to flourish unchecked. Everyone has some bacteria in their mouths, even if they brush and floss every day. But if we neglect our oral hygiene, the bacteria can get out of control and begin eroding our tooth enamel and irritating our gum tissue, leading to periodontal disease.
To rid our bodies of this bacteria, our immune systems release defense cells that cause gum tissues around the teeth to become inflamed. As our gums swell, they draw away from our teeth creating little pockets that allow more bacteria to settle in, as well as causing our teeth to be unstable.
Other factors that could lead to periodontal disease include:
- Smoking/tobacco use
- Hormonal changes (puberty, pregnancy, or menopause)
- Certain illnesses
- Poor nutrition
- Clenching or grinding teeth
Stages Of Periodontal Disease
Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gum tissue without loss of bone tissue yet. This form of gum disease is mild and still reversible. Furthermore, not all gingivitis progresses to periodontal disease, but it certainly makes its’ development more likely. At this stage, plaque has accumulated on teeth and gums have become inflamed, but teeth are still firmly planted in sockets. However, If left untreated, this inflammation can lead to gum disease and tooth loss.
Full-on gum disease occurs when the decay has reached the underlying bone tissue. The pockets in the gum tissue around the teeth created by the inflammation of gums deepen and more gum tissue and bone are afflicted. Eventually, due to the increasing inflammation and bone deterioration, teeth can 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 bad taste in the mouth.
- New spaces developing between your teeth.
When You Should See a Dentist
The symptoms of periodontitis can be painless. In fact, some people may not even realize they have them until their teeth are at risk. Having a periodontal evaluation with x-rays done by your dentist is the best method of finding and treating gum disease. If it’s been awhile since you’ve had a dental examination, or if you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. Treating your gum disease in the early stages not only improves your oral health but can also have a have a prevent a negative impact on your overall health.
Dr. Shawna Hoffert of Red Maple Dental in Asheville, NC wants to help you prevent, diagnose, and treat periodontal disease. Routine cleanings and check-ups combined with minimally invasive treatments will safeguard your teeth and gums from periodontal disease for years to come. Your bleeding gums might be warning you about gum disease. Don’t wait to find out! Contact us online today to schedule an appointment or call (828)-358-1925.