How to Recognize Gum Disease

Periodontal disease affects one out of every two American adults aged 30 and over making it one of the most common dental ailments. In fact, periodontal disease is the leading cause of lost teeth in adults in the United States. But periodontal disease affects more than just teeth, researchers have established links to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s Disease, rheumatoid arthritis, pancreatic cancer, diabetes, stroke, heart disease and more! Since you can have periodontal disease without pain, you might be surprised to learn you are already experiencing a few of its symptoms.

What Is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease — meaning “around the tooth” in Greek — is also referred to as periodontitis or gum disease, is an infection of the gum tissues that surround the teeth and the jawbone that anchors the teeth in place. It begins with bacteria in the mouth, and, if untreated, it can end with bone tissue and tooth loss.

Causes of Periodontal Disease

The cause of periodontal disease is bacteria living in plaque on your teeth that is not removed by regular brushing and flossing. The bacteria in our mouths bond with mucus and other particles to form clear, sticky plaque. If you brush your teeth and floss regularly, most plaque can be removed without causing any issues.  However, plaque that is left unchecked hardens and forms tartar.

To fight off the bacteria, our immune systems release defensive cells that cause the gums around the tartar-encrusted teeth to become inflamed. This causing gums to swell, pulling away from the teeth and creating little pockets that allow more bacteria to settle in and access the roots, eventually causing the teeth to loosen and fall out.

Other factors that increase the risk of periodontal disease include:

  • Smoking/tobacco use
  • Hormonal changes (puberty, pregnancy, or menopause)
  • Certain illnesses
  • Genetics
  • Poor nutrition
  • Stress
  • Clenching or grinding teeth

Stages Of Periodontal Disease

Gingivitis is when there is an inflammation of the gums but without loss of bone tissue.  This is a mild and reversible form of periodontitis. Not all gingivitis becomes gum disease. In this stage, plaque builds up on teeth and gums become inflamed, but teeth are still firmly planted in sockets. If left untreated, gum inflammation can lead to gum disease.

Periodontal disease is when the destruction has reached the underlying bone. The pockets created by gum inflammation deepen and more gum tissue and bone are vulnerable. Eventually, due to loss of support, the teeth can become loose and fall out.

What Are the Symptoms of Periodontal Disease?

  • Gums that bleed easily while brushing and flossing.
  • Swollen or tender gums.
  • Gums that pull away from teeth.
  • Changes in the way teeth fit together upon biting down.
  • Deep pockets between teeth and gums.
  • Loose or shifting teeth.
  • Pus between your teeth and gums.
  • Persistent bad breath or bad taste in the mouth.
  • New spaces developing between your teeth.

When You Should See a Dentist

As previously mentioned, gum disease can be painless so it’s important to have regular exams with Dr. Spink or your area dentist. A periodontal evaluation, complete with x-rays, is the best way to diagnose periodontal disease. If it’s been some time since you’ve been to the dentist, or if you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, see your dentist as soon as possible. Treating your periodontal disease now not only improves your oral health but can also have a have a positive effect on your overall health.

Dr. Bruce Spink of Spink Dentistry in Birmingham, AL wants to help you prevent, diagnose, and treat periodontal disease. Regular cleanings by our skilled and professional dental hygienists and check-ups from Dr. Spink combined with minimally invasive treatments will protect your teeth and gums from periodontal disease for years to come.

Your bleeding gums could be telling you something! Contact us online today or call 205.235.5043 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Spink today.