Gum disease can affect anyone at any age. If severe enough, gum disease can develop into periodontitis. Periodontitis is a severe gum infection that targets the gums and the jawbone. In this article, we’ll discuss what you need to know about periodontitis and how to prevent it.
What is Periodontitis?
Periodontitis is an infection of the periodontal tissues. It starts small, in pockets between teeth and gums. The disease progresses when bacteria enters these areas where it’s harder for your body to fight off with its natural defenses like saliva or white blood cells. Over time periodontitis can cause the supporting bone around teeth to become weak and break down, leading to tooth loss.
A recent CDC report showed the following data related to prevalence of periodontitis in the United States:
- 47.2% of adults aged 30 years and older have some form of periodontal disease.
- Periodontal disease increases with age, 70.1% of adults 65 years and older have periodontal disease.
This condition is more common in men than women (56.4% vs 38.4%), those living below the federal poverty level (65.4%), those with less than a high school education (66.9%), and current smokers (64.2%).
Understanding the Condition
Periodontitis causes your gums to become very inflamed. They may turn red, swell and bleed. Cleveland Clinic explains that the inflammation is so severe that pockets of air also develop between your gums and teeth.
Bacteria enter and multiply in these pockets, which results in an infection below the gum line. After this occurs, your immune system will try to fight the infection. Eventually, your immune system will break the tissue down and can affect the integrity of the bones, too. This response can lead to the loss of teeth.
What are the Symptoms?
The CDC lists periodontitis as a Category III condition, meaning that there is no definitive test to diagnose periodontitis. It’s typically detected by looking at your mouth with the help of an instrument called a periodontal probe. Your dentist will check for signs of periodontitis by inserting the periodontal probe between two teeth. If you have periodontitis, your gums will bleed and feel loose when probed by a dentist or dental hygienist. In advanced cases, periodontitis may cause facial pain, tooth mobility (where they move around in their sockets), and even changes to the way that your teeth fit together when you bite down.
Signs You’ll Notice
There usually aren’t any symptoms at first or periodontal disease can be mistaken for a cavity because it starts in between teeth where you may not notice anything is wrong without regular dental exams. As periodontal disease progresses, the following symptoms can occur:
– Red, swollen or tender gums
– Bleeding after brushing teeth
– Bad breath that doesn’t go away with regular oral hygiene
What are Prevention Strategies for Periodontitis?
- Good oral hygiene habits like brushing daily with fluoride toothpaste can help prevent periodontitis.
- Schedule periodontal maintenance exams and cleanings every six months with your dentist to remove tartar buildup below the gum line as early as possible before periodontitis sets in, which can help reduce bacterial presence and inflammation that lead to periodontal disease.
- Quit smoking or chewing tobacco products because they may contribute to periodontitis.
- Eat a healthy diet and maintain a normal weight because they can help reduce periodontal disease risk factors like high blood pressure, diabetes or poor nutrition.
Scaling and Root Planing
A periodontal specialist may recommend a procedure called scaling and root planing to remove tartar build-up from below the gums. During this periodontal maintenance treatment, your periodontist will clean deep pockets around each tooth by removing plaque and calculus (tartar). Scaling is when your periodontist scrapes away the tartar and calculus with a periodontal scaler or curette. A root planing machine may also be used to smooth the tooth surface, removing irregularities that can trap bacteria and lead to periodontitis.
If you’re suffering from periodontitis, your periodontist may recommend periodontal surgery to remove infected tissues and bone from your teeth. This can be done either through scaling or by performing a flap procedure, which involves cutting the gums so that periodontal pockets can be thoroughly cleaned.
Stop Gum Disease Early with Niles Family Dentistry
The best way to prevent periodontitis is by starting periodontal maintenance treatments at the first sign of periodontal disease. If you have any questions about gum disease or how to spot warning signs, make an appointment with Dr. Ashley Niles at Niles Family Dentistry today.