Periodontal (aka “gum”) disease is far more common than you might think. In fact, if you’re over 50, odds are nearly 50 percent that you have some form of gum disease, and if you’re over 65, that number climbs to more than 70 percent! Raleigh Implant and Family Dentistry knows that understanding and avoiding periodontal disease is the best option for maintaining a lifelong healthy smile.
What is Periodontal Disease, Really?
If you have periodontal disease, you actually have an infection. The gums that surround (and support) your teeth are tender, swollen, and inflamed. In its earliest stages, periodontal disease is known as gingivitis. If you have gingivitis, you’ll first become aware of the problem when your gums become inflamed. They may even bleed a little bit when you brush your teeth. Seeing blood on your toothbrush or in the sink is a warning sign that you’ve got a problem brewing and that you need to see your dentist ASAP for a thorough examination.
If gingivitis is left untreated, it can progress to full-blown periodontal disease. Your gums will begin to pull away from your teeth may become loose. You could even lose some teeth in the process!
So what causes the infection to take hold? Simple. Bacteria in the mouth that are left behind due to less than thorough brushing and flossing. Once that bacteria gets into the gaps or pockets in between teeth and gums, the trouble really begins. That’s when teeth can loosen and fall out, and even bone, ligaments and tissue can become infected. All that multiplying bacteria also makes for chronic bad breath that won’t go away no matter how much mouthwash or breath spray you use.
Treating Periodontal Disease
Treatment for periodontal disease depends on how far the disease has progressed. If you’ve got the mildest form of periodontal disease — gingivitis — treatment starts with a trip to your dental hygienist for a thorough teeth cleaning to remove plaque and tartar from your teeth. This process will include a procedure known as scaling, where the hygienist literally scrapes hardened deposits from your teeth, both above and below the gum line. This can be a bit uncomfortable if your gums are already inflamed and tender, but it’s a necessary treatment, and your mouth should start to feel better over the course of two or three days.
More advanced periodontal disease will likely require a visit to a periodontist — a dental professional who specializes in gum disease. The goal of treatment will be to get the infection under control and may include flap surgery, a process where the periodontist will first clean out the pockets around teeth and then close them with sutures so they once again “hug” and support your teeth properly. Sometimes, the periodontist will apply an antibiotic gel to the freshly scaled and planed pockets to kill off bacteria and help reduce the size of the pockets.
Preventing periodontal disease before it starts is always the best strategy. That means twice daily brushing and flossing, daily use of a mouthwash that kills germs, regular dental check-ups and cleanings and knowing your risk factors, which include
- Gender: Men are more susceptible to periodontal disease than women are.
- Age: The older you are, the greater your risk of developing gum disease.
- Smoking: Most of us are familiar with the evils of smoking, but you may not be aware that smoking also increases your risk for periodontal disease.
- Diabetes: If you have diabetes, you’re at greater risk for periodontal disease. Even more alarming is the fact that having periodontal disease can increase your risk of diabetic complications!
- Genetics: If you have a family history of periodontal disease, you may have a greater risk for suffering from the condition as well.
If you’re fortunate enough to have healthy gums, you’ll want to keep them that way by practicing good oral health habits as outlined above. If you’ve already got a problem, don’t wait for it to get worse.
Make an appointment with Raleigh Implant and Family Dentistry to treat the problem before it causes issues that are far more uncomfortable and upsetting than a tender gum line! To schedule a consultation with one of our outstanding dental professionals, contact us at (919) 782-0548. We are happy to see you!