What Is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease, more commonly known as gum disease, is an infection of the areas that surround your teeth, which include the gums, periodontal ligaments, cementum (thin layer of bony material that connects the teeth to the jaw), and alveolar bone (bone that contains the tooth sockets).
There are three stages of gum disease that range in severity. The most common and least severe is gingivitis, followed by periodontitis and advanced periodontitis. Symptoms include swollen, red, tender, or bleeding gums, bad breath, gum recession, and, in advanced cases, loose teeth.
What Causes Periodontal Disease?
The primary culprits behind periodontal disease are the bacteria in dental plaque; therefore, a lack of good oral hygiene is likely to blame. When teeth aren’t brushed properly or regularly, your immune system will release substances to fight excess bacteria. These substances cause damage to the gums which, in turn, leads to swelling and bleeding.
The bacteria in plaque are not the only cause of periodontal disease, though. Other risk factors include smoking and tobacco use, misaligned or crowded teeth, grinding or clenching of teeth, and even genetics. Stress can also worsen symptoms, as can medicines that cause xerostomia (dry mouth).
How Is Periodontal Disease Treated?
Your treatment will depend on the type and severity of your disease. For less severe periodontal disease cases, a non-surgical option called scaling and root planning may be all that’s necessary. This is a process that includes a deep cleaning above and below the gumline to remove plaque and tartar, followed by a smoothing of the teeth roots to help gums reattach. In more severe cases, surgical options like pocket reduction or gum grafts may be necessary.
How to Prevent Periodontal Disease
While periodontal disease might sound scary, it can be easily avoided. The best way to prevent it is to embrace a positive oral hygiene routine. Brushing and flossing twice a day is the first line of defense against dental plaque. Additionally, visiting your dentist every six months will cut down your risk of disease. He or she can eliminate plaque in areas your toothbrush alone cannot reach.