Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is an infection that affects the tissue and bone that support the teeth. Healthy gum tissue fits tightly around the tooth.
With periodontal disease, the tissue pulls away from the tooth and is infected with bacteria that cause damage and loss of bone that supports the teeth. As the disease progresses, more bone loss can occur which can eventually lead to loose teeth and tooth loss. If treated early, tooth loss can be prevented.
In most cases, periodontal disease can be treated with a deep cleaning otherwise knows as scaling and root planning. It is important to note, however, that while periodontal disease is treatable, it is not curable. Following a deep cleaning, it is critical to maintain regular dental care to prevent further progression of the disease.
There are many factors that can contribute to periodontal disease. The primary cause is poor oral hygiene. Not caring for your teeth and gums leads to an accumulation of plaque which is full of harmful bacteria. These bacteria find a home in the space between the gums and teeth. Over time, the bacteria colonize and becomes even more dangerous to the bone and gum tissue.
Other factors that may contribute include but are not limited to:
Tobacco, certain medications, hormones, genetics, and some systemic diseases. Periodontal disease has been linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease, to name a few.
Signs of periodontal disease include but are not limited to:
- Bleeding gums
- Red, swollen, tender gums
- Persistent bad breath
- Pus between your teeth
- A change in how your bite feels
- A change in how your partial denture fits
*You may or may not notice these signs.
At your dental check-ups, our hygienists at The Dental Center regularly check you gum health. X-rays are taken not only to check for cavities but also to examine existing bone levels. Gum measurements will be taken with a small, rounded ruler.
This tiny ruler is gently inserted into the space between the tooth and the gums. Recession (exposure of the root surface) is also taken into account. 1-3 mm readings are usually healthy measurements. Measurements of 4 mm and above can indicate gingivitis or periodontal disease.
Your clinician will also look for sites of bleeding or pus. Following your periodontal assessment, findings will be discussed and any questions you have will be answered.
While periodontal disease may not always be preventable, there are ways to help minimize and in some cases, prevent periodontal disease.
- Brush 2 times a day
- Floss daily
- Eat a healthy diet
- Maintain regular dental check-ups and cleanings
- Staying on top of your overall health by visiting your physician regularly
Yes, gingivitis and periodontal disease are different. Gingivitis is defined as inflammation (swelling) of the gums that may be accompanied by bleeding and bad breath. Gingivitis is caused by bacteria that accumulate under the gum surface.
Gingivitis is reversible and preventable with adequate home care and regular dental visits. Untreated gingivitis may lead to periodontal disease. It is important to brush, floss, and visit your dentist/dental hygienist regularly to help prevent gingivitis.