Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease or periodontitis, is an oral bacterial ailment that can lead to tooth loss and damaged surrounding tissue. Periodontal diseases are quite common but are treatable and preventable with timely action. In the early stages, the symptoms can be mild. However, failure to treat gum disease can lead to a myriad of oral problems, tooth loss, and damage to the bones supporting your tooth.
It’s vital that you practice good oral health habits regularly. Simple measures such as brushing your teeth twice per day, flossing daily, and visiting your dentist for regular dental check-ups can be enough to prevent most periodontal disease.
Symptoms of periodontal diseases
Periodontal diseases can cause a variety of symptoms. People suffering from periodontitis may have one or several of the following symptoms:
- Swollen gums.
- Bright red colouring of the gums.
- Purple discolouration of the gums.
- Gums are tender to touch.
- Gums bleed easily.
- There are traces of blood or tissue on your toothbrush after use.
- Bleeding when brushing or flossing your teeth.
- Bad breath.
- Infected liquids or puss between your gums and teeth.
- Loose teeth.
- Tooth loss.
- Pain when chewing.
- New gaps or spaces emerging between your teeth.
- Receding gums.
- A noticeable change in how your teeth fit together when you bite down.
While some of these symptoms don’t always mean you have gum disease, if you notice any of the above on a regular basis, it is a strong indication that periodontitis is present.
It’s important to know what healthy gums should look and feel like so that you can spot any abnormalities.
Healthy gums are generally pink in colour. However, it’s normal for people with darker coloured skin tones to have darker gums. Bright red or unnaturally black gums are often inflicted by gum disease. If you notice a significant change in the colour of your gums, it can mean that disease is present. Healthy gums should feel firm, and you shouldn’t be able to move them around with your fingers. They should have a secure fit to your teeth. Softness, tenderness, and puffiness are all characteristics of unhealthy gums.
Causes of periodontal disease
One of the leading causes of gum diseases is a build-up of plaque. This build-up can be due to several factors. Here are some contributors to periodontitis.
When certain foods interact with bacteria found in your mouth, they cause plaque to build on your teeth. While regular brushing and flossing remove plaque, it re-forms quickly.
Plaque can harden under the gums, turning into tartar if it isn’t removed. Tartar is difficult to get rid of, and it is filled with harmful bacteria. It requires professional dental care to clean and remove it from your gums and teeth.
Gingivitis is one of the mildest forms of gums disease. It is irritation and inflammation of the gum tissue that surrounds the base of your teeth. Bacteria build-up causes this inflammation, and your gums often bleed easily during brushing. The teeth remain fixed firmly in the sockets, and there is no serious damage to the bones or tissue. While gingivitis can be treated and reversed, if left untreated, it can lead to more serious periodontitis.
Ultimately, pockets of space develop between your gums and teeth. These become filled with harmful plaque, tartar, and bacteria. The spaces become bigger and deeper, filling with more bacteria. Infections ensue, causing severe damage to the tissue, bones, and teeth.
People experience hormonal shifts during puberty, pregnancy, menstruation cycles, menopause, and other stages of their lives. This can make gums more sensitive and eventually lead to gingivitis or periodontal disease.
Many illnesses have an impact on the state of your gums, particularly those that affect your immune system. Ailments such as diabetes put people at high risk for developing gum disease, as they interfere with someone’s ability to use blood sugar.
Certain drugs can negatively impact your oral health. While some reduce the amount of saliva flow to protect teeth and gums, others cause unnatural growth of gum tissue, which can contribute to periodontitis.
Habitual smoking can cause oral damage and reduces the ability of your gums to repair themselves. This makes you much more susceptible to gum disease.
Poor oral hygiene habits
If you don’t maintain proper oral hygiene habits, you’re likely to develop some gum disease. It’s important to brush and floss your teeth daily.
Crowded and uneven teeth
Crowded, uneven, or largely gapped teeth can contribute to gum disease.
As with many other illnesses, family history and genetic makeup can contribute significantly to many gum diseases.
How to treat periodontal disease
As mentioned, mild gum disease can be treated and reversed by adopting healthy oral hygiene habits. However, if more severe periodontal disease sets in, you will require professional treatment by a dentist, a dental hygienist, or a periodontist. Generally, the treatment will involve cleaning the pockets around the teeth and preventing further damage to the bone.
If the periodontitis hasn’t progressed too far, there are non-surgical treatments available. Some of the most effective include:
- Scaling: removing tartar and bacteria using dental instruments.
- Root planing: smoothing root surfaces, removing harmful bacteria and byproducts, and reducing the risk of a further build-up of plaque, tartar, and bacteria.
- Antibiotics: in the form of medication, mouth rinses, or gels. Over time, these can control infection and eliminate it completely.
Advanced periodontal diseases may require surgical treatment.
Preventing periodontal disease
There is no secret formula for preventing gum disease. You must practice good oral hygiene habits throughout your life and visit your dentist for cleanings every six to twelve months.
Here are some tips for maintaining good oral hygiene:
- Brush your teeth for around two minutes at least twice per day. Always brush in the morning and before bed.
- Floss at least once per day. It helps to do this before you brush.
- Limit the number of sugary drinks that you consume.
- Brush or floss away excess food or drink pieces in your teeth after eating.
If your teeth are uneven, crowded, or heavily gapped, consider getting aligners to straighten them. Clear aligners are subtle and very effective in creating straighter and healthier teeth. This can reduce the risk of developing oral problems and can go a long way in preventing periodontal diseases.