Periodontal Disease and What it Means to You
Pierre Fauchard was the first to write about periodontology in his 1746 text, Le Chirurgien Dentiste—that’s French for the dentist surgeon, by the way. The book included recommendations for periodontal disease ranging from intense scaling to removing tartar, procedures similar to modern-day treatment. It also recommends the use of mouthwashes, dentifrices (the predecessor to toothpaste), and “splinting of loose teeth” which involved wrapping a wire around surrounding teeth to hold the weak one in place.
Today a startling 47.2 percent of adult Americans are estimated to suffer from periodontal disease—more popularly known as gum disease.
Left untreated, gum disease can lead to severe infection and tooth loss. In fact, it is the leading cause of tooth loss. It’s also associated with various chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Knowing what signs to look for yourself, however, is critical between visits. Here are five signs that you may have periodontal disease.
Gums are Swollen or Puffy
Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gums and the precursor to gum disease. It is important to take care of the inflammation before it has a chance to progress to an infection.
Infected gums become swollen or puffy and may even protrude out, covering the tooth below. Usually, this occurs because the gums are irritated from tartar build up underneath. They can be tender to the touch, bleed easily, and appear to be a bright red or purplish color.
A Receding Gum Line
As gums become irritated from tartar buildup they begin pulling away from your teeth and receding. This results in your teeth looking longer than normal.
With periodontitis, the gums have receded from the teeth forming pockets that are open for debris to build up and cause infection.
As your body fights off the infection, it will also begin to break down the healthy bone and supportive tissue in an attempt to rid itself of the bad bacteria—this not only causes the pockets to further deepen, but it also leads to bone loss.
As the gum line recedes and the pockets become deeper, the network of strong supportive tissue that keeps your tooth firmly in place becomes compromised. Without this tight-knit network of tissue, the tooth becomes loose in its socket. At this point, important bone tissue has been seriously affected.
With this stage of periodontal disease you may find that you have new spaces developing between your teeth or even pus between your teeth and gums. You might even feel the tooth moving around during normal activities like talking or chewing.
Pain When Chewing
As your teeth start to loosen, they can begin to wiggle or even shift position.
With the movement of just one tooth, your bite will no longer be aligned, and your teeth won’t fit together the way they once did. This can lead to other teeth shifting as a result.
Wiggling, shifting, and misalignment can be uncomfortable or even painful, especially when chewing.
Bad Breath or a Bad Taste in Your Mouth
Bad breath can actually be a warning sign of gum disease. As the gum line recedes and pockets deepen, there is more room for tartar and bad bacteria to develop.
This bacteria puts off gas with an unpleasant odor and bad taste. Bits of food can also become stuck between the teeth and pockets. And over time they will begin to rot and smell as a result.
Dr. Singh, Your Periodontist.
Here at First Dental Associates, our very own Dr. Singh is a periodontist.
What’s a periodontist? A periodontist is an expert in the study of the periodontium and diseases that affect it. The periodontium is the structure of tissues in your mouth that keeps your teeth firmly and healthily in place.
It is recommended to have a periodontal examination twice a year. During this exam, we look for signs of gum disease. X-rays are used to diagnose any bone loss and a periodontal probe is used to measure the pockets of your gums. We also assess your future risk of developing periodontal disease from factors like genetics, habits, inflammation, and tartar buildup.
Tartar is hardened plaque that irritates the gums and causes them to recede forming those deep pockets prone to infection. Tartar can only be removed by your dentist. This is why it is so critical to brush and floss daily to remove plaque before it has the chance to harden and cause havoc on the health of your gums and teeth.
If you are showing symptoms of gum disease, don’t wait to get treatment. Thanks to technological advancements, early treatment can be minimally invasive and stop the disease when the proper maintenance plan is followed.
If you are exhibiting any of these 5 signs please call the office as soon as possible to set up an exam. The sooner gum disease is diagnosed, the sooner we can take measures to stop it from progressing. Early intervention can mean avoiding invasive procedures like bone grafts and only requiring the far more preferable routine of regular periodontal cleanings.
At your next visit, ask us about what preventative measures need to be taken and be diligent about scheduling more frequent periodontal cleaning if they are a part of your dental plan.