Periodontal disease is a widespread issue, but it’s also highly preventable.
Periodontal disease, commonly referred to as gum disease, affects millions of American adults. The CDC has found that about half of adults have diagnosed or undiagnosed periodontitis, the most advanced form of gum disease. Other oral health authorities believe that closer to 80% of the adult population has some form of gum disease if you add gingivitis to the equation.
Although the numbers may be startlingly high, the good news is periodontal disease is largely a preventable oral health condition. Better yet, most cases of periodontal disease respond very well to treatment.
Knowledge is the best tool for protecting your oral health so let’s take a look at periodontal disease prevention and what you can expect from treatment.
What is periodontal disease?
Before we go over prevention and treatment, it’s a good idea to review what exactly periodontal disease is.
Types of Periodontal Disease
Periodontal disease is an oral health disease that affects the gums. Although often blanketed under one term, periodontal disease is made of two different conditions—gingivitis and periodontitis.
Gingivitis refers to gum inflammation and is the mildest form of periodontal disease. This condition is most often caused by plaque build-up from poor oral care.
Gingivitis symptoms include red, swollen gums that lightly bleed during brushing or flossing. Some tenderness may occur but generally, patients don’t really experience any pain or discomfort.
The second type of periodontal disease is periodontitis.
Periodontitis most often occurs when gingivitis is left untreated for a period of time. As plaque continues to build up bacteria run rampant and become trapped inside the gum pockets surrounding the teeth. This results in infection as well as pain, bleeding, and a number of other symptoms.
Periodontitis is severe and unlike gingivitis, it isn’t a reversible condition.
What Happens Without Treatment
Without treatment, gingivitis will turn into periodontitis. And when periodontitis isn’t treated it can lead to advanced periodontitis—severe permanent damage to the gums, teeth, and even the jaw bone. In fact, advanced periodontitis is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.
What risk factors increase your chances of getting periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is often the result of a bigger problem. Certain lifestyle factors can put individuals at more of a risk of developing gingivitis and periodontitis.
You are more likely to develop gum disease if the following applies to you:
- Don’t brush or floss twice a day
- Don’t see a dentist often
- Smoke or use tobacco products
- Drink alcohol often
- Eat a diet high in starches and sugars
Outside of lifestyle, there are also a number of other risk factors. Even if you take excellent care of your teeth, you may still be more likely to develop gum disease due to the following reasons:
- Family history and genetics
- Certain medications
- Bruxism or TMJ disorders
- Systemic disease
Patients who are battling cancer, diabetes, and heart disease are much more likely to also develop periodontitis.
Maintaining a high level of oral hygiene is the best way to prevent periodontal disease.
The most common cause of periodontal disease is a lack of oral hygiene. This means improving your oral hygiene routine will be the most effective way of preventing gingivitis and periodontitis.
Take care of your teeth and gums at home.
Here’s a quick look at what you can do at home to care for your teeth and gums:
- Floss daily, ideally before your bedtime brushing
- Brush twice a day for two minutes
- Upgrade to an electric toothbrush
- Use a mouthwash designed for gum health
- Scrape your tongue before brushing
- Use only ADA-recommended oral care products
See your dentist at least every six months.
Maintain biannual check-ups and cleanings with your dentist. Your dental team will be the first to notice signs of inflammation long before these symptoms become apparent to you. If you’re at a higher risk for periodontal disease your dentist may even recommend more frequent appointments every two, three, or four months.
Look for ways to improve your lifestyle.
You can’t eliminate all of the risk factors we mentioned earlier, but you can look for ways to improve upon your lifestyle. For example, if you’re a smoker, consider getting help to quit the habit. If you have a strong sweet tooth, maybe it’s time to switch up your diet to one that’s balanced and healthy.
If you’re diagnosed with periodontal disease, treatment is straightforward and very effective.
Patients who are already in good health with a mild to moderate case of gum disease often respond extremely well to treatment. Patients who may be battling with other health conditions (i.e. cancer or diabetes) and have severe periodontal disease may take longer to respond to treatment.
With that in mind, gum disease treatment is generally simple and healing begins fairly quickly for the average patient.
How is gum disease treated?
This bulk of the treatment process is known as periodontal therapy or perio therapy.
Perio therapy is a non-surgical procedure that’s essentially a super deep cleaning session for your gums. Your dentist or a specially trained hygienist will perform root scaling and planing, a procedure that removes plaque build-up and gunk from inside the inflamed gum pockets. This process removes infection and allows the gums to begin to heal.
For more serious cases or in the event of a live infection, we may also start patients on a course of antibiotics and recommend oral surgery for the removal of damaged gum tissue.
Book a consultation at Farless Dental Group to learn more about your gum health and how to prevent periodontal disease.
Whether you suspect you might have some form of gum disease or you’re simply interested in learning more about protecting yourself from periodontal disease, we’re ready to help!
A consultation appointment with one of our dentists is the first step to your healthiest smile yet. To book a visit, just give our office a call or fill out our handy online request form.