What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease is another term for gum disease. Mild gum disease is called gingivitis, while periodontitis refers to a more severe infection of the tissues that support your teeth. Periodontal disease often develops due to insufficient oral care, though there is likely a genetic component as well. Certain lifestyle factors are also known risk factors for gum disease.
Fortunately, for many people gum disease is preventable, and mild gum disease is reversible. Twice-daily brushing and daily flossing help to prevent sticky bacteria known as plaque from building up on the teeth. This bacteria produces toxins that infect and irritate the gums. When this bacteria is not removed, it hardens and becomes tartar, which a dentist will need to remove.
Signs, Symptoms, and Risk Factors for Periodontal Disease
Gum disease is a progressive infection, so it will worsen over time. If you notice any of the following signs or symptoms of gum disease, it is important to see a dentist as soon as possible.
- Tender gums
- Swollen gums
- Red gums
- Bleeding gums
- Bad breath (even when you’ve just brushed your teeth)
- Pain when chewing
- Loose teeth
- Sensitive teeth
- Teeth that look longer than normal because the gum is receding
It is now known that certain risk factors may make patients more susceptible to developing gum disease. The risk factors include the following.
- Smokers and those who use smokeless tobacco
- Underlying conditions include diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, immune system disorders
- Hormonal changes such as menopause or pregnancy
- Certain medications
- Grinding/clenching teeth
- Family history of gum disease
- Age (gum disease is believed to affect 70% of patients 65 and older)
- Poor nutrition/vitamin deficiency
Complications of Periodontal Disease
Periodontal disease can make you miserable. In addition to swollen, tender gums, and pain while chewing, you risk losing teeth and jaw bone density. Worse still, studies continue to indicate that there is a link between periodontal disease and many serious diseases including:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Bacterial pneumonia
- Alzheimer’s disease