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Home » Dental » A Guide to Periodontal Disease

What is it?

Periodontal disease occurs due to inflammation or infections within the gums, periodontal ligaments, or alveolar bones, as a result of maintaining poor oral health. This oral disease is comprised of two different stages based on severity- gingivitis, and periodontitis. The initial stage of periodontal disease, gingivitis, usually consists of swollen or inflamed-looking gums that may bleed when you floss or brush your teeth. Gingivitis is less severe its effects can usually be unaltered with promising results by maintaining a consistent brushing and flossing routine. The more severe form of periodontal disease is referred to as periodontitis and can cause the gum tissues to pull away from teeth, gum and/or bone decay, or loss of teeth. The CDC stated warning signs that you could have periodontal disease may include:

  • Halitosis, or bad breath
  • Foul taste in the mouth
  • Swollen, tender, or bleeding gums
  • Pain when chewing
  • Loose or sensitive teeth
  • Gum tissues that have pulled away from your teeth
  • Gum or bone decay
  • Change in the fit of partial dentures
  • Change in the fit of overall bite in the mouth

How is periodontal disease diagnosed?

While attending routine dental checkups, your dentist or dental hygienist will usually perform a periodontal exam every few years. Using an instrument called a periodontal probe, your dentist or dental hygienist will measure the pocket depth that exists between your teeth and gum tissue. The ADA states that a healthy mouth usually consists of pockets measuring less than three millimeters. Due to the large-sized pockets that can develop as a result of periodontal disease, it becomes much easier for plaque bacteria to continuously collect. In addition to performing a periodontal exam, the provider will also assess your overall oral health, take any necessary x-rays, and review any medical history on file prior to diagnosing a patient with periodontal disease. In the event that you are diagnosed with periodontal disease, you can expect to work with your provider on following a personalized treatment place or to be referred out to a periodontist.

Photo of pocket depths, courtesy of https://centralpennperio.com/about-gum-disease/

What does periodontal disease look like?

Photo showing the varying forms of periodontal disease, courtesy of https://hopkins-dentistry.com/services/gum-disease/gum-disease-2/

Who is at risk for developing periodontal disease?

According to Dona Pleis, a published author on Colgate’s educational blog website, there are certain risks that can “predispose you to or influence the severity of the disease.” The CDC and Colgate states risks that may predispose you to or influence the severity of periodontal disease include as follows:

  • Diabetes
  • Taking certain medications
  • Fluctuating hormone levels in women
  • Smoking
  • Heredity
  • Poor oral hygiene maintenance
  • Stress
  • Defective fillings
  • Underlying immuno-deficiencies such as AIDS

How can I prevent myself from developing periodontal disease?

The best way to ensure that you won’t develop periodontal disease is by maintaining good oral hygiene. The ADA has created a great visual resource for home oral care recommendations and advises that all patients should brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, clean and floss in between teeth on a daily basis, maintain a healthy diet that is limited in sugary drinks or snacks, and attend bi-yearly dental check-ups.