What Is Periodontal Disease and What Are the Signs and Symptoms of it?

The Woodlands and Houston, TX

Periodontal Disease, also referred to as Periodontitis or Gum Disease, is a condition that begins with the growth of oral bacteria, and if not treated properly, can progress to tooth loss as well as the destruction of the tissues surrounding your teeth. Periodontal disease is an infection of the supporting tissues around your teeth, meaning that your gum tissue isn’t directly attached to your teeth as it seems. Between each tooth and the gums, is a shallow, v-shaped crevice, and this tiny narrow space is where periodontal disease loves to attack your oral tissues, causing the gradual breakdown of supporting tissues and compromising the attachment of your teeth. Over time, as more and more damage occurs in this narrow space, the once normal and narrow crevice can start to enlarge and develop into a small pocket, which increases in size along with the advancement of the periodontal disease.

Periodontitis is generally preceded by Gingivitis, which is the term referring to the inflammation of the gum tissues, but it should be noted that all Gingivitis does not progress to full on gum disease. When gingivitis is in its earliest stages, bacteria begins accumulate and develops into plaque which builds up and causes your gums to become red and swollen due to inflammation. This leaves your gums very prone to bleeding easily during brushing and flossing. Despite the irritation of the gum tissue with gingivitis, teeth are still firmly held in place as no irreversible bone or tissue damage has occurred yet. If caught early, Gingivitis is generally fully reversible if the appropriate improvements are made in a person’s everyday oral hygiene practices and gum disease can be avoided entirely!

So when does the dreaded diagnosis of Periodontitis come into play? Well to put it quite simply, if gingivitis is left untreated, it can readily advance to Periodontitis. As this happens, the innermost layer of gum and bone tissue begin to pull away and separate from your teeth, forming unwanted pocket-like spaces that quickly accumulate debris and allow bacteria to proliferate, causing the pockets to become infected. This bacteria and plaque can quickly spread and grow further and further below the gum line, causing your body to mount an immune response that can further destroy gum tissue as collateral damage as it fights off the invading bacteria. This is when teeth begin to come loose since they are no longer fully anchored in place, allowing tooth loss to occur.

The signs and symptoms of periodontitis can include: swollen gums; gums that feel tender when touched; a bright red or purplish coloration to your gums instead of the normal healthy shade of pink; newly developed spaces between teeth; gums that appear to be pulling away or receding from teeth causing them to appear longer than normal; loose teeth; pus between your teeth and gums; unexplained bad breath or bad taste in your mouth that doesn’t go away; and even a change in the way that your teeth fit together causing them to feel misaligned when you bite.  However, even if some people can’t notice any symptoms, they may still have some degree of gum disease. With some individuals, gum disease may affect only certain teeth, such as the molars. Only a dentist or a periodontist can recognize and determine the progression of gum disease, which is why it so important to have regularly scheduled dental exams and cleanings 2-3 times per year. Additionally, some risk factors that can leave certain people predisposed to Periodontal Disease include: previously having gingivitis; poor oral health habits; heredity; diabetes; old age; tobacco use; poor nutrition; hormonal changes; certain medications; substance abuse; and ill-fitting dental restorations.

If caught early enough and periodontitis hasn’t advanced too far, treatment can ideally include less invasive and non-surgical options such as: Tooth Scaling to remove plaque and tartar from below the gumline; Root Planing to smooth the root surface in order to discourage further tartar buildup; and Antibiotic Therapy to help control bacterial infection. Treatment methods depend upon the type of disease and how far each individual person’s condition has progressed. Practicing good oral hygiene regularly at home is the key to helping keep periodontal disease from becoming more serious or recurring. You don’t have to lose teeth to periodontal disease!

If you feel that you might be suffering from periodontal problems, please feel free to contact the dental office of Dr. Scott Young in The Woodlands, TX to schedule an appointment for an exam and oral health evaluation. Even if you feel that your teeth are in seemingly good condition, schedule your next cleaning with Dr. Young and his staff to ensure that you maintain a pristine smile! Scott Young D.D.S. and his team at Woodlands Dentistry serve The Woodlands, Houston, Kingwood, Spring, and Conroe areas.

By |May 14th, 2012|Oral Health|