When you think about a healthy mouth, you may only think about how your teeth look. Are they straight? Is your smile bright? While that’s important, oftentimes it’s easy to forget the role the gums play in a healthy and attractive smile. Even if you have great-looking teeth and you’re cavity-free, you are not immune to periodontal diseases. Because pain is typically not one of the main symptoms, so many people do not realize they are dealing with gum disease.
What is periodontitis?
Periodontitis is a condition affecting gum tissue. It is an inflammatory disease triggered by bacteria. Left untreated, it can cause loose teeth and eventually tooth loss. Periodontal disease begins with gingivitis or inflammation of the gums. When bacteria are allowed to accumulate on the teeth, it can cause the gums to become swollen and red. It gradually worsens but, when detected early by Dr. Mark Caceres who can treat it, the process can be stopped, and healthy gums restored.
What Causes Periodontal Diseases?
The primary cause of periodontal disease is bacteria. When plaque builds up on the teeth, it provides a great breeding ground for bacteria that like to feed on it. The sugars and carbohydrates in plaque attract bacteria. When plaque isn’t removed, it calcifies and turns into tartar or calculus. Brushing and flossing cannot remove this substance; only professional cleaning can. Gum tissue is delicate, and bacteria irritate it. As plaque hardens it causes redness, swelling, soreness, and inflammation. If it’s not removed, it can lead to infection.
Other Things that can Contribute to Gum Disease
Although plaque and bacteria work together to cause periodontal disease, there are other contributing factors. Additional risk factors include:
- Use of tobacco and marijuana products. When you smoke or chew tobacco, it can cause damage to the gum tissue. Regular marijuana use and vaping have also been linked to an increase in gum disease.
- Hormonal changes. Changes in hormone levels can be a risk factor for gum disease since it makes gums more susceptible to a bacterial infection.
- Medication side effects. Some medications increase the risk of gum disease. In particular, medications that inhibit the production of saliva (xerostomia), which provide natural protection for the teeth and gums.
- Weakened immune system. Bad bacteria can wreak havoc in the body and weaken the immune system. Some conditions like HIV or diabetes cause weakened immune systems, making it more difficult to fight gum disease.
- Genetics. Some people can be genetically predisposed to periodontal disease. This is why people who maintain poor oral hygiene practices may not have any periodontal issues, while someone who brushes and flosses regularly does.
What are the symptoms of periodontal disease?
Symptoms of periodontal disease can vary depending on the stage of the disease. It also varies between individuals. Some of the main symptoms of gum disease to look out for may include:
- Bleeding when brushing, flossing, or eating hard foods. Bleeding gums are often the earliest sign of gum problems like gingivitis. You may notice bleeding during your regular oral hygiene practices, or if you eat chewy or hard foods. It’s essential to schedule an exam with Dr. Caceres at this stage to prevent gum disease from worsening.
- Bad breath that won’t go away. Bacteria buildup in your mouth can cause a foul taste. If you notice you always seem to have a bad taste or bad breath, or if others notice this, it’s time to see your Marietta dentist.
- Gums that are tender, swollen, or red. When periodontal disease is not caught early enough it can progress to an infection. Once there is the presence of infection, your gums may become swollen and change to a bright or dark red color.
- Receding gum lines. As the systemic disease progresses, your gums may begin to break down. They will separate from your teeth. You may not notice it, but you might notice that your teeth start to appear longer.
- Painful chewing or loose teeth. In the latter stages, supporting bones can start to erode. This can cause your teeth to loosen and move around a bit. You may notice your teeth not fitting together properly when you bite. You may also start to feel pain when you are chewing.
If you notice any of these symptoms, make an appointment with Dr. Mark Caceres to be evaluated. A dental professional can examine your gums and look for signs of gum disease or infection that you may not be able to see.
Periodontal Disease Treatment
If a dental professional diagnoses you with periodontal disease, they will offer a variety of treatment options based on the severity of your case. These treatments may include:
- Scaling and root planing. Scaling is a deep professional cleaning technique that removes plaque and tartar from the teeth. Root planing removes plaque and tartar from the root surfaces. After the teeth are clean, gum tissue starts to heal.
- Periodontal gum surgery. This procedure is an option when the periodontal pockets around the teeth become too deep.
- Gum graft surgery. In later stages, the gums can recede, and you may need surgery to reshape the gums. Oftentimes, new tissue is grafted to cover exposed tooth roots.
- Extraction. In the most extreme cases of gum disease, bone loss becomes so severe some teeth cannot be saved and removal is necessary.
Other Health Implications of Periodontal Disease
In some cases, periodontal disease can impact more than your mouth. Over the last few years, research has indicated that there is a link between your overall health and gum disease. Some health issues that have been linked to periodontal disease include:
- Heart disease
- Respiratory disease
- Premature birth
It’s important to not ignore tender or bleeding gums. The sooner you can get a diagnosis of periodontal disease, the sooner it can be treated.
Best Oral Hygiene Practices to Prevent Gum Problems
To maintain good periodontal health, your Bright & Healthy Smiles dental care team can provide instructions to help you reduce the bacteria in your mouth. This involves keeping both teeth and gums clean. Your Marrieta, GA dental professional can help you learn how to brush and floss properly for the best results. They may also recommend some oral hygiene products like mouthwash or a water pick. Here are a few oral hygiene tips to help keep your gums, teeth, and mouth healthy.
- Use fluoride toothpaste to brush your teeth twice a day.
- Ask about using an electric toothbrush, as it may be more effective.
- Floss at least once daily to remove plaque.
- Visit Dr. Caceres at least twice a year for a professional cleaning.
- Don’t smoke or chew tobacco.
If you suspect you may have periodontal disease: Contact Us!
Untreated periodontal disease can cause tooth loss and many other problems. Avoid these problems by scheduling a dental appointment as soon as you notice any symptoms or differences in the appearance of your gums. If you have any questions about symptoms, or to schedule an appointment, call Bright & Healthy Smiles or schedule your appointment online.