What is Periodontal Disease?
Do your gums bleed when you brush or floss? You may have periodontal disease.
Most people ignore their bleeding gums, because it is usually painless. But, this is one symptom that should not be ignored. Periodontal disease, otherwise known as gum disease, is surprisingly common. According to the National Institutes of Health, about half half of Americans over 30 have regularly bleeding gums.
Bleeding gums are the early signs of an infection, and if not taken care of right away, the infection can spread. An infection around your teeth can loosen your teeth from the gums so much so that they may have to be extracted. As the infection progresses, it can affect all of the supporting tissues around your gums, too. No fun.
So, what causes periodontal disease? What are the warning signs? How do you treat it? Here’s a deeper explanation:
What causes periodontal disease?
Bacteria in dental plaque have been recognized as the No. 1 cause of periodontal disease. If you forget to brush your teeth regularly or skip dental visits, plaque will begin to build up on your teeth. This plaque can begin to spread below the gum line, where your toothbrush can’t reach. If plaque isn’t removed, the bacteria in the plaque will keep multiplying. Think: Gremlins. (okay, actually, don’t think it. But there it is.)
The buildup of plaque below the gum line causes the gums to swell and become inflamed—and, eventually disconnect from the tooth.
Certain habits and life stages make people more prone to periodontal disease. Some risk factors include:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Poor Nutrition
- Chewing tobacco
- Certain medications
How do I know if I have periodontal disease?
Bleeding gums are the most common sign that you may have periodontal disease, but there are also other symptoms to look out for, including:
- Swollen, tender or red gums
- Gums that are pulling away from the teeth
- Loose or separating teeth
- Changes in the way you bite
How is periodontal disease treated?
Treating periodontal disease depends on the type of gum disease you have and how severe it is. If caught early enough, when there is no damage to the supporting structure of your teeth, you may just need a professional cleaning. This is why it’s critical to notice any bleeding or swelling of your gums right away and visit your dentist.
Treating an infection that has started to affect the supporting structures and tissues of the teeth is more complex, starting with a deep cleaning called scaling and root planing. The procedure will involve removing the plaque and tartar down to the bottom of each periodontal pocket (the space between your tooth and gum caused by the swelling of your gums). After your dentist cleans out each pocket, the root surfaces of your teeth will need to be “planed” or smoothed to allow the gum tissue to reattach to the teeth. Depending on the severity of your infection, this treatment may need to be done over several different visits.
You may also be prescribed a certain medication to help aid in healing. After a few weeks or months, your dentist will need to recheck at your gums to see if they’ve healed and to determine if more treatment is necessary.
Gum disease has been linked to heart disease, stroke, premature births, diabetes, and respiratory disease. That’s why paying attention to your bleeding gums is extremely important for your oral health as well as your overall health.
It’s possible to have gum disease and have no warnings signs, so regular dental checkups and periodontal examinations are critical for your health. So, go ahead and schedule your next cleaning with us today.