Why should I care about periodontal disease?
Also known as gum disease, periodontal disease is bacterial growth in your gum tissue. Left untreated, it continues to progress, destroying the bones and tissue that support your teeth. This can cause several serious issues, including gum recession and tooth loss.
What is gingivitis?
Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease. It affects your gingiva, which is the gum tissue surrounding the base of your teeth. In the beginning, symptoms can be so mild you don’t realize you have a problem.
As it progresses, the gingiva becomes more and more irritated, which causes swelling and redness. Eventually, the gums become tender and bleed easily, especially with flossing and brushing. Gingivitis can also cause bad breath (halitosis).
While the symptoms of gingivitis can be easy to ignore, it is important to take measures to halt and reverse the process. If ignored, it progresses to periodontitis.
What causes gingivitis?
Most commonly, gingivitis is the result of poor oral hygiene. When we eat, food particles get between our teeth. Also, the sugars and starches in the foods we eat interact with the bacteria in the mouth, forming plaque to form on our teeth. Plaque is a sticky, invisible film that covers the teeth and requires daily removal.
When not removed properly, plaque hardens into tartar. Also called calculus, tartar forms under the gum line. It collects more and more bacteria and offers them a “protective shield.” It also makes it more difficult to remove future plaque. Tartar irritates the gums and can only be removed by the professional dental cleaning.
As more tartar forms, the gums become inflamed. This is gingivitis. Excessive tartar and poor oral hygiene also put you at a higher risk for cavities.
Other contributors of gingivitis include:
- Tobacco use
- Grinding or clenching your teeth (bruxism)
- Hormone fluctuations
- Dry mouth
- Certain medications
- Ill-fitting dental appliances or restorations
- Poor nutrition
- Certain health conditions, such as diabetes, HIV, or infections
- Cancer treatments
How do I get rid of gingivitis?
Fortunately, good oral hygiene can reverse gingivitis. It is important to floss daily and brush your teeth properly at least twice a day. The best outcome, however, is with flossing and brushing after each meal.
Antiseptic mouthwash is also helpful, as it helps control the bacteria in your mouth.
Another important aspect of treating (and preventing) gingivitis is regular visits to your dentist. At these visits, your dentist will perform a thorough examination and professional cleaning to remove tartar.
What is periodontitis?
When gingivitis progresses, bacteria spread and get below the gumline. This destroys gum tissue, causing separation, or pockets, between the teeth and gums. These pockets fill with bacteria, plaque, and tartar. This causes the pockets to become deeper.
This cycle continues, allowing tarter and bacteria to go deep below the gum line.
If left untreated, these deep infections destroy bone and tissue that hold the teeth in place. This can lead to tooth loss and gum recession.
In addition, the constant state of bacterial infection puts a strain on your body and immune system.
Symptoms of periodontitis include:
- Puffy, swollen gums
- Tender gums
- Gums that bleed easily
- Bad breath
- Spaces developing between teeth
- Dusky, bright red, or purplish gums
- Gum recession (gums pull away from your teeth, making them look longer)
- Sensitivity to cold and hot
- Loose teeth
- Pus between gums and teeth
- Painful chewing
- A change in your bite
What is the treatment for periodontitis?
Of course, the best treatment for periodontitis is prevention. Good home hygiene and routine dental visits can halt or even reverse gum disease.
Since periodontitis is a deep infection, normal brushing and flossing cannot reach it. In fact, it also is too deep for routine professional cleaning. At this stage, deep cleaning with scaling and root planing is needed.
Scaling is the process of removing the sticky plaque and tartar below the gumline. Because the cleaning is so deep and can be uncomfortable, Dr. de la Paz will inject local anesthesia to the affected areas.
Once all the tartar and plaque are removed, root planing will be performed. This is the process of smoothing out the rough spots of tooth roots to help prevent future bacterial growth.
After treatment, a soft diet and over-the-counter medications can help with any discomfort and gum tenderness.
Scaling and root planing allows the gums to heal and reattach to the teeth. After treatment, you will be placed on a periodontal maintenance program that includes more frequent dental visits.