The word periodontal means “around the tooth”. Periodontal disease attacks the gums and the bone that support the teeth. One of the first signs of periodontal disease is bleeding of the gums when you brush or floss. You notice pink or red blood in your saliva when you rinse or spit. Many patients think this is normal, but it isn’t! If your hands bled when you washed them, you would be concerned. You should also be concerned if your gums bleed when you clean them!
Four out of five people have periodontal disease and don’t know it! Most people are not aware of it because the disease is usually painless in the early stages. Over 75% of people aged 30 and over will have periodontal disease. It begins with plaque. Plaque is a sticky film of food debris, bacteria, and saliva. If plaque is not removed, it turns into calculus (tartar). When plaque and calculus are not removed, they begin to destroy the gums and bone. Periodontal disease is characterized by red, swollen, and bleeding gums. If the inflammation is left untreated, the disease will continue and the underlying bones around the teeth will dissolve, and will no longer be able to hold the teeth in place.
Not only is it the number one reason for tooth loss, research suggests that there may be a link between periodontal disease and other diseases such as, stroke, bacterial pneumonia, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and increased risk during pregnancy. Researchers are determining if inflammation and bacteria associated with periodontal disease affects these systemic diseases and conditions. Smoking also increases the risk of periodontal disease.
What causes periodontal disease?
As with many other oral health diseases, bacteria and plaque build-up is often the culprit. In fact, plaque build-up is the leading cause of gum disease. Other potential causes of gum disease include:
- lifestyle choices
- a diet low in nutrients
- smoking / the use of smokeless tobacco
- autoimmune or systemic diseases
- hormonal changes in the body
- bruxism (incessant clenching of the teeth)
- certain medications
Signs and symptoms of Periodontal Disease:
- Bleeding gums – Gums should never bleed, even when you brush vigorously or use dental floss.
- Loose teeth – Also caused by bone loss or weakened periodontal fibers (fibers that support the tooth to the bone).
- New spacing between teeth – Caused by bone loss.
- Persistent bad breath – Caused by bacteria in the mouth.
- Pus around the teeth and gums – Sign that there is an infection present.
- Receding gums – Loss of gum around a tooth.
- Red and puffy gums – Gums should never be red or swollen.
- Tenderness or Discomfort – Plaque, calculus, and bacteria irritate the gums and teeth.
Notice that pain is not included int he symptoms! Periodontal disease is tricky like that, because patients can have it, and it can advance, without any pain at all. If you see pink when you are brushing or flossing, please call us today. Periodontal disease can be completely reversed in it’s early stages, and easily stopped and controlled even in moderate cases. Treatment is relatively pain free and easy, and usually consists of a series of root planing or scaling visits ( deep cleaning). Antibiotics or antimicrobial medicines may also be used, and can be extremely effective.
There is nothing to be embarrassed about. Over 75% of adults have some form of periodontal disease. The goal is not to allow it to advance.