The word periodontal means “around the tooth,” so periodontal disease is exactly what you’d expect: disease around the tooth, mainly the gums and bone around the teeth. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 47.2% of adults 30 years and older have some form of periodontal disease, while 70.1% of adults 65 years and older have periodontal disease. 1 So what exactly is this common ailment and is there anything you can do to prevent it? That’s what we’re here to discuss today.
What is periodontal disease?
Germs and bacteria enter the mouth every time we eat and drink. If they are not removed through proper oral hygiene (like regular brushing and flossing), plaque builds up on the teeth and gums. As plaque spreads below the gumline, it can cause inflammation and infection. If the infection spreads, the gums begin to separate from the teeth, forming pockets. Eventually, if left untreated, the infection will spread to the bone around the teeth which can lead to tooth loss.
While you may not know much about periodontal disease, you have probably heard of—or even experienced—gingivitis. But did you know that gingivitis is actually the very early stages of periodontal disease? Gingivitis is a common condition where gums become swollen or tender because plaque has begun to build up around the gumline. Because this condition is mild, many people don’t even know they have gingivitis. If your gums feel tender or swollen or if they bleed easily when you brush or floss, you may have gingivitis.
The good news is that oftentimes, if caught early enough, gingivitis can be reversed. By practicing good oral hygiene like brushing for two minutes twice a day and flossing every day, your gums will heal, and you will ensure that the disease doesn’t get worse. Seeing your dentist every six months will also greatly help. Not only will a dental professional be able to quickly identify periodontal disease, but she will also have the tools to help remove hard-to-reach plaque and bacteria below the gumline.
If your periodontal disease has gone past gingivitis, your dentist may recommend a deeper cleaning called scaling and root planing. This deep cleaning ensures plaque and bacteria are completely removed and gives the gums an opportunity to heal. In very severe cases, your dentist may refer you to a periodontist for a procedure called gum graft surgery. This surgery can help prevent further tooth decay and bone loss.
Your best fight against periodontal disease is practicing good oral hygiene and preventing gum disease from the start. In addition to brushing twice a day and flossing once a day, it is crucial that you visit your dentist every six months for a professional cleaning. If you’re looking for a dentist, we would love to help you at Cornerstone Family Dentistry, so make an appointment with us today!