Half of all American adults aged 30 and over are affected by periodontal disease, making it one of the most common dental ailments. In fact, periodontal disease is the leading cause of missing teeth in adults in the United States.
But periodontal disease threatens more than just teeth, researchers have found links to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s Disease, rheumatoid arthritis, pancreatic cancer, diabetes, stroke, heart disease and more! Because you can have periodontal disease without feeling pain, you may be surprised to learn you are already experiencing a few of its symptoms.
What Is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal means “around the tooth” in Greek and is also called periodontitis. It is the disease of the gum tissues that surround teeth and the jawbone that anchors them in place. It begins with bacteria in the mouth causing the inflammation of gum tissue, and, if untreated, can end with tooth loss.
Causes of Periodontal Disease
The cause of periodontal disease is bacteria living in plaque on and between your teeth. Food particles in our mouths bond with mucus and saliva to form clear, sticky plaque that sticks to your teeth. The bacteria that live in our mouths feed off the food particles in plaque and their digestive acids dissolve our tooth enamel as well, causing tooth decay.
If you brush your teeth and floss regularly, most plaque can be removed without causing any issues. However, plaque that is allowed to remain can harden and form tartar or dental calculus.
To get rid of the bacteria, our immune systems release defense cells that cause the gum tissues around the tartar-encrusted teeth to become inflamed. As our gums swell, they draw away from the teeth creating tiny pockets that more bacteria can settle in, eating away at the roots.
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 when the gums have become inflamed but there has been no loss of bone tissue. This is still a mild and reversible form of periodontitis at this point. Not all gingivitis develops into gum disease. In this stage, plaque builds up on teeth and gums that become inflamed, but teeth are still firmly planted in sockets. If left untreated, gum inflammation can lead to periodontitis.
Periodontal disease is when the underlying bone has begun to erode. The pockets created by gum inflammation have deepened and more gum tissue and bone are affected. Eventually, due to lack of proper support from deteriorating jaw bone tissue, 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 bad taste in the mouth.
- New spaces developing between your teeth.
When You Should See a Dentist
Periodontal disease can develop without pain or bleeding; some people aren’t even aware they have it. A periodontal evaluation complete with an x-ray is the best way to find and treat gum disease. If you haven’t seen a dentist in awhile, or if you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, see your dentist as soon as possible. Treating your periodontal disease now not only improves your oral health but can also have a have a positive effect on the health of your entire body.
Dr. Abbas Ahrabi of Oakton Dental Center in Oakton, VA wants to help you prevent, diagnose, and treat periodontal disease. Regular cleanings by our skilled and professional dental hygienists and check-up’s from Dr. Ahrabi combined with minimally invasive treatments will protect your teeth and gums from periodontal disease for years to come. Don’t wait to find out! Contact us online today to schedule an appointment or call (703) 382-6789.