What is Periodontal Disease?
The fact that a considerable number of people assume it is normal for gums to bleed when flossing or brushing is a testament to the woeful state of the average person's oral health. There is no reason to assume your mouth is perfectly fine if your gums are bleeding. In fact, bloody gums are a telltale sign something might be seriously wrong with your oral health. Bleeding gums often indicate periodontal disease has set in.
Why Periodontal Disease Should be Taken Seriously
If you notice your gums bleed or are swollen, it is an indication there is a bacterial infection. If you do not take action, the infection is likely to spread and undermine the structures necessary to keep the teeth fully supported within the jaw bone. If your gums continue to worsen, the teeth will likely loosen to the point that extraction is required. This is the worst-case scenario for those plagued by periodontal disease. Our dentist is here to help with a number of solutions.
The Basics of Periodontal Disease
The word “periodontal” is a combination of the root words “perio” and “dontal”, each of which has its own unique meaning. Dontal is a reference to the teeth. Perio is another way of stating “around” something. If periodontal disease occurs, the structures surrounding the teeth are infected. Such structures include the gums, the alveolar bone, and the periodontal ligament. The initial stage of periodontal disease is referred to as gingivitis. Gingivitis is an infection that harms the gums. If the disease becomes even more severe, it is possible for all tissues near the tooth to be impacted.
Scientists have attempted to figure out the underlying cause of periodontal disease for decades. At this point, most dentists and others in the field agree dental plaque and certain types of bacteria are the primary causes of periodontal disease. Medical researchers are also learning more about how gum infections can negatively impact overarching health. Recent studies have linked gum disease to an array of additional health problems. Gum disease is likely connected to health problems ranging from heart disease to stroke, respiratory disease, and even diabetes.
Digging Deeper Into the Causes of Periodontal Disease
As time progresses and periodontal disease is studied more in-depth, it is becoming increasingly clear this oral health problem is the result of bacteria within dental plaque. Dental plaque is the sticky gunk that develops along the teeth within the hours after brushing. However, it is the body's response to this bacterial infection that leads to the bulk of the ensuing problems. The cells of the immune system emit substances that spur inflammation and even gum destruction in an attempt to combat the bacteria. The result is bleeding and swollen gums, gingivitis, and loose teeth. Severe periodontitis or the most advanced stage of periodontal disease sets in as the teeth loosen.
How to Prevent Periodontal Disease
Make a concerted effort to take care of your gums/teeth and you will dramatically reduce the chances of periodontal disease. It will certainly help to visit the dentist at least once every six months. However, daily flossing and brushing are of the utmost importance. Do not hesitate to ask your dentist for guidance in terms of brushing and flossing techniques. When performed properly, flossing and brushing will eliminate the majority of the plaque on the teeth. A professional cleaning performed by the dentist will also help control plaque, especially when it forms in areas where floss and your toothbrush cannot reach with ease or at all.
Fail to take care of your teeth and/or fail to visit with the dentist every six months and plaque will gradually accumulate on the teeth. This plaque is quite problematic as it will gradually move beneath the gum line. Once plaque moves below the gum line, the bacteria will have protection as the toothbrush cannot delve below the gums. Though deep flossing has the potential to remove some of the plaque, there is a chance the bacteria will increase in number, leading to an even worse infection. If plaque continues to accumulate below the gums, the gums will become inflamed, the tissue will swell and a space/gap known as a pocket will develop between the teeth and gums. These pockets allow for the additional buildup of plaque. The worst-case scenario is untreated periodontal disease in which the inflammatory response moves to the alveolar bone and periodontal ligament, causing their destruction.
The Difference Between Gingivitis and Periodontitis
The vast majority of children have a certain degree of inflammation of gingival tissue. Sadly, the beginning stage of gum disease is quite common in most adults. This initial stage is commonly referred to as gingivitis. If your gum margins are red, swollen or bleed when you brush, you likely have gingivitis. The acute variety of gingivitis is typically tied to infections, trauma or micro-organisms. If the gum tissue near your teeth is chronically inflamed, it is likely the result of the bacterial biofilm known as plaque along the teeth and gums. Thankfully, it is possible to reverse gingivitis with proper oral hygiene practices.
Periodontitis is not the same as gum disease. Periodontitis impacts the supporting tissue and bone. The forementioned pockets between the gums and teeth result from periodontitis. Those saddled with periodontitis often end up with chronic periodontal destruction that causes the teeth to loosen or even completely fall out. It is quite interesting to note patients sometimes experience periods of rapid periodontal disease in surprisingly little time only to be immediately followed by one or several remission periods.
While most adults will be impacted by gingivitis, there is no guarantee gingivitis will lead to periodontal disease. One's genetics and oral hygiene play important roles in determining whether gingivitis will eventually give way to periodontal disease. Unfortunately, this disease is silent, meaning there is no obvious sign of progression nor any noticeable pain. Aside from slight bleeding, there are no other indications the disease has advanced until the gums begin to deteriorate and the teeth start to loosen.
Universal Smiles is at Your Service
If you are having problems with your gums or have not been to the dentist in the past six months, it is time to take action by scheduling an appointment at Universal Smiles. Those who live in the greater Orange City are can schedule an appointment with our office by dialing (386) 775-9933. Those who live in Edgewater can schedule an appointment by dialing (386) 423-3652.