According to research, more than 40% of US adults aged 30 and above suffer from periodontal disease. 7.8% have advanced periodontal disease, while the rest are at different stages of gum disease –gingivitis, moderate periodontal disease, etc.
While the condition affects all ages, the severe form of the disease is more prevalent among the elderly.
Periodontal disease (periodontitis) is a dental infection that causes inflammation of the gum. It starts as gingivitis, whereby the gums become swollen and tender. If left untreated, the condition progresses as the gums pull away to form pockets.
This exposes the teeth, resulting in loosening. At its advanced stages, gum disease causes bone and teeth loss. In addition to tooth loss, gum disease exposes one to other health conditions such as heart diseases, cancer, and pneumonia.
This is because as the bacteria seep into the bloodstream through the broken skin, the risk of infection heightens.
Periodontitis is primarily caused by poor oral hygiene habits. Daily brushing and flossing get rid of plaque – the white layer that forms on the teeth’ surface. Failure to observe daily oral care leads to the accumulation of plaque, encouraging bacterial overgrowth. The hardened plaque –tartar – then infects the gum, and they become overly tender.
Symptoms of periodontitis vary depending on the stage of the disease. During the early-stage – gingivitis, the symptoms are milder and can be easily ignored. But as the condition progresses, they become more pronounced. Some of the common symptoms include:
Besides poor hygiene, several other risk factors may predispose you to gum disease. For instance, diabetics have an increased risk of developing gum disease. People with immunodeficiency conditions such as HIV/AIDS are also at a higher risk.
Hormonal changes in women and girls make them more susceptible to infection as well. Studies have also indicated that genetics can predispose one to the risk of severe periodontitis. Some medications, especially those that reduce saliva production, cause mouth dryness, thereby increasing the risk.
Similarly, smoking is also another significant risk factor and usually inhibits effective treatment and recovery.
As earlier mentioned, gum disease develops through various stages. Mainly, there are four stages: gingivitis, slight periodontal disease, moderate periodontal disease, and advanced periodontitis.
Gingivitis – This is the early periodontal disease stage and the less severe. It involves inflammation of the gingiva, which results in red and swollen gums. As the gums are tender, they easily bleed after brushing or flossing.
You may also experience bad breath regularly. Generally, you can treat gingivitis by observing good oral hygiene and regular dental appointments.
Slight periodontal disease – If you ignore the initial signs of inflammation, the disease progresses to the next stage. This is called slight periodontal disease and is characterized by gum recession. Pockets occur between the gum and the teeth creating room for more plaque.
At this stage, cleaning the teeth may become painful, and bad breath is more pronounced due to the plaque buildup caught between the teeth and gum. This stage of gum disease also marks the beginning of jawbone destruction.
Moderate periodontal disease
As the disease advances, the gums recede further, exposing the teeth and the jawbone. The exposed root canal becomes more susceptible to decay as cleaning inside the pocket to remove the accumulated bacteria gets difficult. Gum sensitivity also increases, and the teeth loosen. If treatment is not administered at this stage, bone and tooth loss becomes apparent.
Advanced periodontal disease
This is the final stage at which reversing the condition is not possible. Most of the gum tissue has by now deteriorated, heightening the risk of bone and tooth loss. In addition to bleeding, your gums may ooze pus, depending on the severity of the condition.
Gum disease progression largely depends on your oral hygiene and treatment. Generally, gum inflammation can take a few days. If poor hygiene persists, the disease can develop in a couple of weeks. In most cases, gingivitis goes away depending on your oral regime and your body’s immunity. However, if the conditions don’t improve and no treatment is administered, it will systematically progress to other stages over time.
Periodontal treatment mainly involves cleaning the pockets (scaling) to remove the bacteria. They may also perform root planing and administering antibiotics. If you’re a smoker, the dentist will advise you to quit smoking, as this can make the treatment less effective. This should be accompanied by excellent daily oral care. If the disease has progressed, requiring surgical treatment, they may perform pocket reduction surgery, known as flap surgery, and gum grafts to reinforce the damaged tissue. In case your jawbone has sustained damage, bone grafting may be performed to hold the teeth in place. They may also apply a protein gel to stimulate enamel and bone development.
This depends on the disease stage. Generally, at the early stages – gingivitis and mild periodontal disease, you cannot lose your teeth. However, left to progress to the third and the fourth stages, the risk of tooth loss increases. This is because, as discussed earlier, receding gums exposes the teeth leading to loosening and the development of tooth decay. And as bone loss ensues, the risk of teeth falling heightens.
Yes. Regardless of the stage of infection, you can stop the progression of gum disease. The initial phase is the easiest to manage as it only requires maintaining proper oral care and dental checkups. Further stages will require specialized treatment such as scaling and root planing.
But even at later stages, surgical interventions such as guided tissue regeneration can help arrest tooth and bone damage.
Bone loss occurs when a tooth falls or slants from its position leaving the bone exposed. However, you can stop it by replacing the tooth. But the replacement should have a similar density to the original tooth.
In addition to stopping bone loss through tooth replacement, you can regrow the bone through guided tissue regeneration. This involves placing a biocompatible fabric between the bone and tooth to allow the bone to grow uninterrupted. However, this must be accompanied by proper oral hygiene to prevent further inflammation.
While the disease is still active, you cannot get implants. This is because implants should only be performed on healthy gums. However, once you have recovered and the gums are completely healed, you can replace the lost teeth.
Yes, periodontitis is preventable. Brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste can go a long way in keeping the infection away. Good dental care also requires minimizing the consumption of sugary foods.
Eating a vitamin C-rich diet can also help improve your oral health. Lastly, it’s recommended that you change your toothbrush every three months for effective plaque removal, and don’t forget to honor your bi-annual dental checkups.
Besides the treatments we have discussed in the post, you can restore your gums’ health by observing good oral care. Brushing and flossing daily, using an antibacterial mouthwash, consuming a healthy diet that’s low on sugary foods, and maintaining regular dental checkups (at least twice a year) can help you achieve healthy gums again. If you’re a smoker, quitting smoking can speed up your recovery.
Anyone can develop stage one gum disease – gingivitis. But you can prevent the disease from progressing to later stages by upping your oral care and seeking early treatment. However, even if the condition outpaces you, you can reverse it through the various treatments we have mentioned.
If you need dental care, either for gum disease, regular checkups, or other dental concerns, we can help at Cedar Creek Dental. Contact us today and book an appointment.