Gum disease — clinically called periodontal disease or periodontitis — is an extremely prevalent condition that affects one out of every two American adults aged 30 and over. In fact, periodontitis is the leading cause of lost teeth among adults in the developed world. But there is more than just the health of your teeth at risk here, gum disease has also been linked to Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, pancreatic cancer, diabetes, stroke, heart disease and other serious systemic issues!
You may be thinking, “But I would know if I had gum disease, wouldn’t I?.” You might be surprised to learn that you are already experiencing the symptoms but did not recognize them. Dr. Michael H. Mulkey of Lost Mountain Dental at Due West in Marietta, GA would like to take a few moments to present to you the facts about gum disease.
What Is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal means “around the tooth” in Greek. Periodontal disease — periodontitis — is the disease of the gum tissues that surround the teeth and the underlying jawbone that anchors the teeth in place. It starts with bacteria in the mouth infecting and irritating your gum tissues, and, if untreated, it can end with receding gums, bone loss and lost teeth.
Causes of Periodontal Disease
The chief cause of gum disease is bacteria in plaque that is allowed to thrive unchecked. It’s natural for everyone to have some bacteria in their mouths, even if they brush and floss every day. However, if we neglect our oral hygiene regimen, the bacteria can get out of control and begin eating away at our tooth enamel (tooth decay) and causing our gum tissue to become irritated and inflamed, leading to periodontal disease.
To rid itself of these bacteria, our immune systems release defensive cells that cause the gums around the teeth to become inflamed. As our gums swell, they pull away from the teeth creating little pockets in which even more bacteria can thrive.
Other factors that could lead to periodontal disease include:
- Smoking/tobacco use
- Hormonal changes (puberty, pregnancy, or menopause)
- Certain illnesses
- Poor nutrition
- Clenching or grinding teeth
Stages Of Periodontal Disease
Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gum tissue that has not yet progressed to bone loss. At this stage, gum disease is mild and still reversible with treatment. Furthermore, not all gingivitis progresses to periodontal disease but gingivitis makes it more likely. Although the plaque has accumulated on the teeth and the gums have become inflamed, the teeth are still firmly in place in their sockets. But, if this condition is not treated, this inflammation can lead to gum disease and tooth loss.
Once the destruction has reached the underlying bone, you now have fully developed periodontitis. Eventually, due to loss of support by the gums and jaw bone, the teeth can become loose and fall out.
What Are the Symptoms of Periodontal Disease?
- Gums that bleed easily while brushing and flossing.
- Swollen or tender gums.
- Gums that pull away from teeth.
- Changes in the way teeth fit together upon biting down.
- Deep pockets between teeth and gums.
- Loose or shifting teeth.
- Pus between your teeth and gums.
- Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth.
- New spaces developing between your teeth.
When You Should See a Dentist
The symptoms of periodontitis may not be painful and some people may not even realize they are being affected until their teeth are at risk. Having a periodontal evaluation completed, accompanied by annual x-rays, by your dentist is the best method of diagnosing and treating gum disease. If it has been over 6 months since your last dental examination, or if you are experiencing any of the symptoms detailed above, schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. Gum disease, if not caught in the early stages, can have a negative impact on your overall health.
Dr. Mulkey in Marietta, GA wants to help you prevent, diagnose, and treat periodontal disease. Regular cleanings and check-ups combined with minimally invasive treatments at Lost Mountain Dental will protect your teeth and gums from periodontal disease for years to come. Your bleeding gums could be a sign of gum disease. Don’t wait until it’s too late! Call our offices at (678) 212-1280 to schedule an appointment or contact us online today.