What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease, more commonly referred to as gum disease, is a bacterial, chronic inflammatory disease of the gums that can destroy bone and connective tissue. It affects about one-half of Americans over 30. Gum disease occurs when bacteria infect the gums. This infection can spread beyond the gums to all of the surrounding structures, potentially causing further tooth loss and other more serious health issues.
Common Causes of Gum Disease
While bacteria in plaque ultimately stimulate the inflammatory response leading to gum disease, there are many factors that can affect your risk of developing gum disease. These can be age, genetics, hormones, obesity, poor nutrition, or certain medications. In addition, patients can develop gum disease from smoking, stress, or grinding their teeth. Patients that have Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Alzheimer’s, Colon Cancer, or Prostate Cancer are at an increased risk of developing periodontal disease.
What Are the Symptoms of Periodontal Disease?
In the early stages of periodontal disease many patients do not display any symptoms. However, as the disease progresses patients can exhibit:
- Gums that are red, swollen, tender, or pull away from the teeth
- Bleeding from the gums
- Persistent bad breath
- Loose or separating teeth
- Pus coming from the gums
- A change in the way the teeth fit together
Stages of Gum Disease
Dental plaque and more than 500 species of bacteria that live below the gums can irritate and inflame the gums. This leads to the two types of periodontal disease gingivitis and periodontitis.
The mildest form of periodontal disease, gingivitis can be caused by inadequate oral hygiene. It is commonly characterized by red, swollen gums. In this stage, symptoms are rare but simple oral health care at home including brushing and flossing can often prevent gum disease from advancing.
More advanced gum disease, or periodontitis, occurs if gingivitis is not managed, oral hygiene is poor and/or you have a genetic predisposition. Periodontitis can cause gums to separate from the teeth, forming pockets that become infected with bacteria. If left untreated, periodontitis can damage the attachments of the teeth to the bone and can eventually lead to tooth loss.
How Can You Diagnose Gum Disease?
If a patient suspects they have gum disease or are experiencing related symptoms, they should schedule an appointment immediately. Dr. Hiebert and Dr. Smith can perform a series of tests in order to determine if gum disease is present and how extensive the damage is. In addition to an oral exam and reviewing the medical history, our team can take X-rays and use a dental probe to detect any periodontal pockets.
“The staff at Hiebert Smith Dental Group really make you feel a part of the “family”. They care about you as a whole person and especially want to make your experience at the dentist comfortable. They listen to your concerns and come up with plans to make your smile the best!” -Chris N.
Periodontal Disease Treatment
The staff at Hiebert Smith Dental Group offer gum disease treatment so patients don’t have to deal with these symptoms or worry about any future problems. In addition to improved oral health, we offer non-surgical treatments including:
- Scaling and root planing: cleaning the surface of the roots of teeth to remove plaque, tartar, and bacteria from periodontal pockets. Additionally, our staff may prescribe a systemic antibiotic to assist in treatment.
- Antimicrobial medications: for some cases, local antibiotics can be applied beneath the gums to suppress or kill the bacteria adjacent to the roots.
- Laser Therapy
How Can I Prevent Gum Disease?
The most common cause of gum disease is plaque buildup. Fortunately, patients can prevent plaque from infecting their gums by refraining from smoking, eating a healthy diet, flossing and brushing daily, and visiting our office for their regular dental care.