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Periodontal Disease

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Evidence suggests periodontal disease may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and be a risk factor for 21 other diseases. Many people can go years without showing any symptoms at all, and others may not realize that they are in the early stages of gingivitis due to other dental problems. Untreated periodontal disease can become severe and lead to tooth loss.

What is gum disease?
Gum disease is an infection of the soft tissues surrounding the teeth. There are two stages of gum disease. The first is called gingivitis, and the second is periodontitis.

Gingivitis is the initial stage of periodontal disease is reversible with treatment. Affected gum areas become increasingly red due to the influx of blood to the area to try and fight the infection. They may appear swollen and may bleed easily, especially while brushing or flossing. The condition is reversible at this stage with regular brushing, flossing and visits to the dentist. If it is not treated however, gingivitis may lead to a more serious condition called periodontitis.

Periodontitis causes irreversible damage to the gums, bones and other structures that support the teeth and it can lead to tooth loss. The inflammatory process attracts immune cells and molecules to the site and, in later stages promotes the healing of infected tissues. However, treatment can help by stopping the advancement of the disease. At more advanced stages, the disease may require more complex treatment to prevent tooth loss. In the worst case, teeth can become loose and need to be removed by the dentist or worse yet, fall out on their own.

What are some signs that I may have gum disease?
The earliest signs of gingivitis are sore, puffy gums that bleed easily. Halitosis, or bad breath, is also a side effect of gingivitis, due to the buildup of plaque on the teeth, gums, tongue, and palate. Other signs of gingivitis are loose teeth, changes in your bite pattern, receding gums, and pus drainage between the teeth and gums.

What causes gingivitis?
Gingivitis is caused by poor dental hygiene which allows plaque to accumulate to your teeth. When teeth are not properly brushed and flossed on a regular basis, plaque builds up in the crevices between the teeth. Plaque is full of bacteria. It is this build up of bad bacteria that causes the infection in the gum tissue. For most people having their teeth cleaned twice a year is sufficient in fighting gingivitis.

Can gum disease be treated?
Absolutely. When gingivitis is caught in the early stages, it can often be reversed simply by practicing good dental hygiene. Oral hygiene instructions from your dental professional can lead to proper brushing and flossing techniques. It only takes 24 hours for unbrushed teeth to undergo calcification of plaque in the formation of tartar. If plaque has solidified, to the formation of tartar or calculus, it requires removal by a dental professional.   As the disease progresses, it cannot be maintained or treated without the aid of a dental professional. Treatment varies widely and depend on your dentist, any other dental issues that you may have, and the stage of your gum disease.

What happens if I don’t treat my gingivitis?
If you allow your gingivitis to go untreated, it will develop into periodontitis. While gingivitis is reversible, periodontitis is not, and poses a far more serious risk to your overall health. Periodontitis is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. When the gums become so deeply infected, it can spread into the bone around the teeth. When this happens, the teeth  become loose and may fall out on their own, or require removal by the dentist. If your gum disease progresses this far, you will likely need dental implants or dentures.

How can I prevent gum disease?
The single most important thing that you can do to prevent gum disease is to practice good dental hygiene. Brush your teeth at least twice daily to increase the odds of removing plaque. Floss—making sure that you get between all of the teeth, including those in the back—at least once daily. Use a fluoride toothpaste, and avoid bad habits like eating a lot of sugary food, grinding your teeth, opening food packaging or bottles with your teeth, and chewing ice. Professional cleaning at a dentist’s office is recommended twice per year. It’s also extremely important to have regular dental checkups to detect any problems in their early stages.

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