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What is Periodontal (Gum) Disease?

Is a condition that affects the gums and surrounding areas of teeth. Also called gum disease, periodontal disease occurs when bacteria (plaque) attacks oral tissue. If untreated the gum tissue may become inflamed (gingivitis), resulting in bone loss (periodontitis) and possibly tooth loss. Periodontics is the specialty field devoted to the study of various methods of treating and preventing periodontal disease, one of the most common dental diseases.

Oral Hygiene Is Key

The best way to prevent periodontal disease is to maintain regular oral hygiene. Although there are other methods to stop and even eliminate gum disease, periodontists (specialists that study periodontal disease) recommend brushing your teeth daily to reduce the buildup of plaque, the bacteria-rich organism responsible for causing periodontal disease.

Risk Factors

Poor oral health, diabetes, and smoking may increase your chance of developing periodontal disease. Other factors that may lead to gum disease include genetics, poor diet (i.e. eating foods that contain bacteria), and complications associated with bite problems. Many researchers have been studying the link between overall health and periodontal health. Stress, whether physical or emotional, affects the immune system’s ability to fight off bacteria—a problem that when paired with bad oral hygiene may increase the risk of periodontal disease.

Warning Signs of Periodontal Disease

Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) is usually the first warning sign of periodontal disease. The gum tissue appears reddish in color and is sensitive to touch. Patients with gingivitis may bleed when brushing or flossing, a problem that can occur even when gently cleaning teeth. In general, healthy gums don’t bleed under the normal pressures of brushing, so this should be considered a sign of declining periodontal health. As the illness advances the gum tissue recedes, revealing delicate root areas that are sensitive to changes in temperature and pressure. Eating may become difficult for patients with periodontal disease as pockets begin to form around teeth, a result of retracting gum tissue. Bone loss, pus pockets, and discharge from inflamed gums are all serious warning signs of periodontal disease.

Treating Gum Disease

If you should have periodontal disease, here are a few things a dentist may recommend:

  • Daily removal of plaque with adequate brushing and flossing
  • Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking or changing diet
  • Routine dental checkups and scaling (mechanical cleaning) by a dentist
  • Bite therapy to address complications from loose teeth
  • Surgery when non-invasive techniques are not effective (this is usually in extreme cases of periodontal disease)

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.