How Periodontal Disease Impacts Oral Health
Achieving optimal oral health is a worthy goal, but you must look beyond your teeth to your gums to unlock a healthy smile.
Teeth often take the spotlight in oral health discussions since they make up most of your visible smile. From an early age, we become familiar with tooth decay and the importance of fighting against cavities to keep our teeth strong. However, tooth decay isn’t the most common cause of tooth loss in adults – periodontal disease is.
What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is also known as gum disease. It’s a category of oral disease that directly impacts gum tissue but can also cause damage to teeth and bone in its advanced stages. Approximately half of adults have some form of periodontal disease, and these statistics rise to 70% of adults age 65 or older.
Unlike tooth decay, periodontal disease isn’t a specific condition; instead, it’s a blanket term that encompasses different stages of inflammation and infection in the gum tissue.
Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal disease and the precursor to periodontitis.
When you have gingivitis, your gums will be inflamed due to a build-up of plaque constantly irritating the tissue. You may experience symptoms like:
- Bleeding gums or seeing “pink” when flossing or brushing
- Visible puffiness or redness in the gum tissue
- Stubborn bad breath, despite brushing or using mouthwash
- Subtly receding gums, giving teeth a longer appearance
Gingivitis can be very mild and hardly noticeable at first, but it will gradually worsen without intervention. As this happens, you’ll also notice a worsening of symptoms as inflammation triggers infection in the gum tissue.
Periodontitis is the second and final stage of periodontal disease.
When your gingivitis is left untreated, infection develops and permanent damage is highly likely. Periodontitis will cause symptoms like:
- Powerful bad breath and a foul taste in your mouth
- Gums that bleed very easily when irritated
- Gums that feel tender, swollen, or painful when touched
- Obviously receding gums that pull away from the teeth
- Visible pus or abscesses in the gum tissue
- Wiggly and loose-feeling teeth
Unfortunately, advanced periodontitis isn’t reversible and will cause permanent damage in the form of tooth or bone loss without treatment. The sooner you’re able to get treatment, the better.
How does periodontal disease cause tooth loss?
Your jawbone provides the foundation for your teeth, while your gum tissue helps hold your teeth in a straight alignment. If either of these two vital parts of your smile anatomy experience damage, your teeth no longer have the support they need.
Periodontitis attacks gum tissue and bone, which is why advanced cases often result in teeth loss – either from coming out on their own or from necessary extraction. Any signs of receding gums or wiggly teeth require urgent evaluation with a dentist to prevent tooth loss or stop further tooth loss from occurring.
If I have periodontal disease, can it be treated?
Learning that periodontitis isn’t reversible can be alarming, but we have good news. Periodontitis is treatable and also largely preventable. In fact, periodontal disease as a whole is considered a highly preventable oral health condition.
After diagnosing your level of periodontal disease, your dentist will focus on stopping the inflammation or infection and cleaning any plaque and bacteria debris from the gums. This treatment involves periodontal therapy, a unique deep cleaning process that goes further into the gum pockets than standard cleaning. If you’ve experienced significant damage, you may also need oral surgery.
Once your infection is gone, your dentist will move forward restoring your smile if you’ve experienced permanent damage like tooth loss. Dental implants are a fantastic option for replacing missing teeth after necessary gum or bone grafts.
With your smile restored, the next step is following your dentist’s instructions to maintain your oral health. Having periodontitis once doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get it again, but it does mean you have a higher risk of relapsing if you don’t keep a solid oral health regimen in place. Your dentist may provide you with professional oral care products or recommend that you come in for more frequent cleanings to ensure relapse doesn’t happen.
What can I do to protect my smile from periodontal disease?
You can prevent periodontal disease. Here’s how.
- Brush twice a day for two minutes and floss daily.
- Eat a nutritious diet with minimal sugars or starches.
- Practice a healthy lifestyle (i.e., daily exercise, quitting smoking).
- Minimize plaque build-up with dentist-recommended oral care products.
- See your dentist every six months for a check-up and cleaning.
- Take special notice of your gums occasionally and take swift action to visit your dentist if you notice symptoms.
Tomasik Family Dental provides complete dental care in Lakeway, TX, and the surrounding area. Our dentists can help you learn about periodontal disease, discuss your risks of developing gum disease, and evaluate your gum health as it is right now.
Schedule your visit to our Bee Cave office via phone or online request.