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Periodontal disease is an extremely common inflammatory condition which affects the supporting structures around the teeth, including the gums, periodontal ligament and alveolar bone. You may also hear it referred to by several other names including gum disease and periodontitis. In the earliest stage of the condition, it may also be called gingivitis. However, at this stage only the gum tissue is affected. However, periodontal disease is progressive and left untreated, it can have serious consequences for your dental and even wider health. Studies have shown that the majority of patients who have chronic health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, liver and kidney problems, stroke and Alzheimer’s Disease all have one key thing in common – periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease can be caused by a number of different things, but by far the most common cause is poor oral hygiene. This occurs when you fail to brush and floss your teeth adequately, giving plaque an opportunity to form on them. Plaque is the result of the interaction between sugars in the food and drink we consume and the bacteria that live inside our mouths. Most people know that plaque can cause cavities, but don’t realize that it can also cause periodontal disease. This is because if it isn’t cleaned away, the bacteria in plaque can spread onto the gum where they cause irritation, soreness and eventually infection.
In addition to poor oral hygiene, other factors that can increase your risk of developing periodontal disease include:
- Advancing age
- Having diabetes
- Being pregnant
- Having a weakened immune system
- Suffering from malnutrition
- Taking medications that cause a dry mouth
So, how do you know if you are suffering from periodontal disease? Although the condition tends to develop slowly, there are some symptoms that you can look out for. And as with most things, the sooner periodontal disease is identified and treatment begins, the easier it will be to resolve the issue with minimal or no damage to your oral or general health.
Bleeding gums are one of the first indicators of periodontal disease, yet this issue is something that many of us overlook. You wouldn’t not visit your doctor if another part of your body was bleeding persistently, so you shouldn’t ignore bleeding gums either. You may notice them bleeding when you brush or floss your teeth, or even when you eat foods that are hard or chewy.
In addition to bleeding, you will probably notice that your gums look inflamed when you study them in a mirror. This may be accompanied by bleeding.
Everyone gets bad breath from time to time, but if you notice that yours is particularly unpleasant and doesn’t improve with time, you could be suffering from a dental problem such as periodontal disease and should get checked out.
Do your teeth appear longer than usual? Or does it seem like your gums are pulling away from the teeth? These are both classic signs of periodontal disease and occur because the gum is infected and contracting. This process creates gaps between the teeth and gum tissue where further infection and decay can form, so it is essential that you seek treatment right away.
Abscesses are painful and unpleasant. They are also pretty obvious, and you will want to seek professional help quickly to obtain antibiotics to help treat them.
Tooth loss is one of the most serious dental consequences of periodontal disease and mean that your condition is extremely advanced. The bone in your jaw is almost certainly affected and deteriorating and other teeth could also be at risk of falling out. You will need to get your periodontal disease treated before your dentist will consider replacing your missing tooth with an artificial alternative.
Prompt identification and treatment are essential for successful treatment of periodontal disease and prevention of permanent damage to your oral and general health. For more information, or to schedule an appointment with our dental team, please contact our offices.