Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is an infection of the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth. It is a very serious disease that can result in tooth loss, but it is generally painless, so you might not know you even have it.
According to the American Academy of Periodontology, consequences of this disease may include the following:
- Permanent tooth loss
- Higher risk of stroke and heart attack
Gum disease is silently affecting over 50 million Americans, most of whom are not seeking treatment. Are you one of them?
The main cause of periodontal disease is bacterial plaque, the sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth. This plaque causes your gums to become swollen and tender. The plaque builds up on and around the teeth, causing the gums to become red and sensitive.
This condition is known as gingivitis. Surprisingly, gingivitis affects more than 50% of the population. Gingivitis can be reversible if you follow a daily hygiene routine:
- Proper brushing and flossing
- Daily use of an antibacterial mouthwash
Untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis, causing the gums to separate from the teeth and form pockets (spaces between the teeth and gums). When the bacterial plaque enters into these pockets, the area becomes infected. Although there isn't much pain associated with gum disease, the consequences of this affliction can be just as discomforting, including:
- An unhealthy smile, in which the gums pull back from the teeth
- Offensive bad breath
- Gums that become infected and bleed
- Teeth that become loose, possibly fall out, or have to be removed
Patient Self-Evaluation Test
Three out of 4 Americans have some form of periodontal disease ... are you one of them? Read on to find out how many of these periodontal disease indicators apply to you:
- Do you smoke?
- Do you have diabetes?
- Do you grind or clench your teeth?
- Are you currently taking oral contraceptives?
- Are you under a great deal of stress?
- Do you have bad breath?
- Are your gums red and swollen?
- Do your gums bleed when brushing and/or flossing?
- Are your gums pulling away from your teeth or receding?
- Do you have teeth that appear to be loosening?
- Have you noticed a change in the way your teeth fit together?
- Have you recently lost a tooth?
If you answered YES to 2 or more of these questions, you might be at risk for or you may already have periodontal disease. See your dentist or hygienist for a complete periodontal diagnosis.