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Brushing your teeth doesn’t just help keep them white and kill bad breath germs: It’s your first line of defense against periodontal disease! Gum disease can cause tremendous damage to your teeth and health if left unchecked.

At Dental Specialty Associates, we’ve seen firsthand what can happen when periodontal disease runs wild. The damage can be reversed, but it can be costly and require extensive work. We urge all our patients to be informed on this important subject so they can spare themselves unnecessary suffering and discomfort. Here are our six things you should know about periodontal disease.

It’s Very Common

We wish we could see periodontal disease isn’t a widespread health issue in the United States. Unfortunately the numbers don’t lie: Over the last three years almost half of adults aged 30 and up in the U.S. have had periodontal problems! The odds are very good that you could have periodontal issues yourself if you’re not careful.

What Causes It

The main culprit when it comes to the crime of periodontal disease is a poor dental hygiene routine. If you aren’t brushing often enough or have improper technique you are putting yourself at risk of developing gum diseases. When you don’t brush, floss or rinse on a daily basis, the leftover bacteria builds up and forms a thick film known as plaque. Plaque can lead to tartar and break down your teeth over time.

The Symptoms of Gum Disease

Periodontal diseases can be tricky as their symptoms aren’t always very evident. You could develop a gum disease and not know about it until it’s too late for anything but corrective oral surgery. There are some warning signs you should keep an eye out for. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you should come in for a visit right away:

  • Persistent bad breath
  • Tender or bleeding gums
  • Swollen or red gums
  • Loose or sensitive teeth
  • Painful chewing
  • Receding gums
  • Your teeth look longer than they should

Your Lifestyle Matters

Even if you have outstanding dental hygiene habits you could still put yourself at risk for periodontal disease if you have bad habits in other areas of life. A poor diet that’s rich in sugars and acids can lead to your tooth enamel wearing down. And as your teeth wear down, your gums become more vulnerable and at risk of infection.

Dehydration is also a major concern: Your body fights off mouth bacteria by producing saliva. If you’re dehydrated it impairs your body’s ability to produce saliva, which means you’ll have more bacteria growing in your mouth than you should.

Another bad habit that can have serious consequences for your gums is smoking. Nicotine and tobacco don’t just stain your teeth: They can rot them over time. The chemicals from the cigarettes can seep into cuts in your gums and create more bacteria. It also slows down your immune system, making it harder for you to resist oral diseases in the first place.

What It Can Do To You

The milder form of periodontal disease is gingivitis. It can be reversed with regular dental cleanings and better dental hygiene habits at home. When it sets, bacteria causes your gums to become inflamed. They become red, swollen and bleed easily.

If gingivitis is not treated, it can worsen and develop into periodontitis. When periodontitis hits, it causes your gums to pull away from your teeth and form spaces that become infected. These pockets of space become nesting grounds for bacteria and plaque to build up and spread through your mouth. The bacteria and plaque move beneath your gum line, causing the bone to break down and wear away at the connective tissue that holds your teeth in place.

If you don’t treat periodontitis it will destroy the bones, gum, and tissue around that affected area. The teeth could become loose and fall out or have to be removed. You may also have to get implants or bone grafts to compensate for the loss of bone density in your jaw.

How It Can Be Treated

Depending on the severity of your periodontal disease, there are a number of treatment options. You may be prescribed medications that can help fight off infection and kill the bacteria in your mouth. The dentist may remove the plaque through a deep-cleaning method called scaling and root planing. Scaling scrapes off the tartar from above and below the gum line while root planing gets rid of rough spots on the root of your tooth where germs gather. Sometimes a laser may be used to eradicate plaque and tartar.

If the disease has advanced to the point where scaling and root planing won’t cut it, surgical methods may be necessary. This could be flap surgery, in which the gums are lifted back so the tartar can be removed. Or another option is bone and tissue grafts. You may also have to get bridgework or dental implants done to fix or replace any teeth damaged by your gum problems.

If you’d like to know more about we can treat periodontal disease or to schedule an appointment with one of our dentists, call Dental Specialty Associates at 602-795-5995.