Periodontitis is a serious gum disease. It occurs when gingivitis (the inflammation of the gums caused by plaque) is left untreated. Consequently, the infection and inflammation spread from the gums (gingiva) to the bone and tissue that support the teeth. When left without support, the tooth is likely to fall out. Thus, if left untreated, periodontitis can eventually lead to tooth loss and other health problems, such as an increased risk of heart attack or stroke and other serious health problems.
Periodontitis is a common occurrence among adults and teenagers but, on the bright side, it is mostly preventable. Since periodontitis is usually caused by poor oral hygiene, brushing at least twice a day (ideally after every meal), flossing daily and getting regular dental check-ups can greatly reduce the chance of developing periodontitis.
Signs and symptoms of periodontitis are:
- Bleeding gums (when brushing or eating)
- Breath odor
- Swollen gums
- Red or red-purple gums
- Gums that feel tender when touched
- Receding gums (gums that pull away from your teeth)
- Loose teeth
When your gums are healthy, they are firm and pale pink. If your gums are puffy, red-purple, bleed easily, or show other symptoms of periodontitis, it is recommended to see your dentist as soon as possible. Because, with periodontitis, the sooner you start treating it, the higher your chances of preventing tooth loss or other serious health problems. The problem with periodontitis is that it develops painlessly, so people do not even notice it.
Some of the factors that can contribute to periodontal disease are:
- Poor oral health habits
- Diseases that weaken the immune system (leukemia, HIV/AIDS)
- Poor nutrition
- Certain medications
- Sensitive gums due to hormonal changes (in pregnancy, puberty or menopause)
- Poor-fitting dental restorations
The bacteria that cause periodontitis can enter your bloodstream, affecting your lungs, heart and other parts of your body and increasing the risk of:
Coronary artery disease, stroke, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, respiratory problems and asthma, and even risk of premature babies.
When the treatments start, the dentist will usually clean your teeth thoroughly to remove the plaque. You will also be demonstrated how to remove plaque thoroughly and effectively yourself. An adequate dental hygiene at home, which involves brushing and flossing, is the crucial thing to help prevent gum disease getting worse. In some cases, further cleaning of the roots of the teeth is required, in order to make sure that the last pockets of bacteria are removed (the treatment is called “root planning”).
It is of an enormous importance to keep in mind that periodontal disease can never be cured. It can only be controlled by maintaining the daily oral hygiene. Removing plaque regularly is essential, as well as regular check-ups by the dentist and hygienist.
Here are some tips to prevent periodontitis:
Make sure to get regular professional dental cleanings; brush your teeth twice a day or, even better, after every meal; use a soft toothbrush and replace it at least every three to four months (you might even consider using an electric toothbrush because it may be more effective at removing plaque and tartar); floss every day and use a mouth rinse to help remove plaque between your teeth!