Most Americans go to the dentist once a year for a checkup where they are told that they need to floss or brush more regularly. They then try to boost their routine for a couple weeks, but quickly fall back into old habits. That is, of course, until they have periodontal or gum disease and need to take medicine or consider surgery. These drastic measures are not something Americans need to deal with, but it is a common occurrence because most people don’t have a fundamental understanding of gum disease. Today that changes!
Here’s everything you need to know about periodontal/ gum disease in one convenient breakdown.
What is Periodontal or Gum Disease?
Periodontal, otherwise known as gum disease, is the infection of the tissues that hold your teeth in place. This is caused by a sticky film of bacteria building up and hardening around your teeth. The leading cause of periodontal disease is poor teeth maintenance. Bad brushing or infrequent flossing is the number one contributor.
Let’s break down the nitty gritty behind the cause of gum disease. That sticky bacterial film becomes what is known as tartar. Dentists will often mention tartar buildup during cleanings, without breaking down what it is. Tartar is only able to be removed by a dentist or dental hygienist. It’s not something that can be destroyed by regular brushing or flossing. Essentially, once the bacteria hardens, it’s not within your power to get rid of it. Which is why it’s so important to see a dentist twice a year and to build up a strong oral routine between visits. Prevent buildup as much as possible and have a dentist easily handle the rest. The problems arise when that system isn’t in place.
Is Periodontal Disease Serious?
Yes, it is. If gum disease goes untreated it can lead to sore, bleeding gums, pain when chewing, tooth and bone loss.
How do You Know if You Have Periodontal Disease?
There are some primary symptoms to look out for.
- Consistent Bad Breath
- Swollen or Red Gums
- Pain When Chewing
- Tender or Bleeding Gums
- Loose Teeth
- Sensitive Teeth
- Receding or Longer Appearing Teeth
While having one of these symptoms does not necessarily mean that you have gum disease, they should be cause for slight concern (Not panic) and I recommend you visit your dentist sooner rather than later.
How do You Treat Periodontal Disease?
There are lots of different treatments for periodontal or gum disease. The point of treatment is to contain and reduce the infection. Meaning that your primary responsibility will be to institute or maintain a good daily routine. Antibiotics or penicillin are prescribed in some situations to kill or limit bacteria while brushing and flossing take care of the rest. In extreme circumstances and as a last resort, dentists or dental hygienists may recommend surgery. There are various surgical procedures, including:
Flap surgery: Tiny incisions in the gums to expose the roots so that scaling and root planning can be conducted.
Soft Tissue Grafts: One side effect of periodontal disease is a receding gum line. To counteract this, medical experts may need to reinforce the remaining gum by taking a small portion of tissue from the roof of the mouth and attaching it to the damaged gum line.
Bone Grafting: In very extreme situations, when periodontal disease has not been addressed, the disease can breakdown or destroy the bone surrounding the tooth root. In these circumstances, the bone may be rebuilt by using synthetic or donated bone.
How to Prevent Periodontal Disease?
Luckily, periodontal disease is almost always preventable through proper oral health. Here are a few tactics that will best prevent gum disease:
- Brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day or after every meal/ snack.
- Use a soft toothbrush and replace it every three months
- Floss once a day in the morning or evening
- An electric toothbrush may be better at removing plaque. Though it depends on your teeth and their sensitivity.
- If your dentist recommends using a mouth wash, give it a go.
- Go to your dentist or dental hygienist regularly for cleanings
- Avoid smoking, chewing tobacco, or other detrimental habits
Your teeth and gums are incredibly powerful tools that help keep you alive. Treat them well and they’ll be with you for life. That means brushing and flossing regularly and seeing your dentist for checkups. Periodontal/ gum disease is preventable with just a bit of effort. Now that you have the knowledge, you’re ready to go out into the world sporting happy and healthy teeth.