About Gum Disease

What Are Periodontal Diseases?

Periodontal diseases are those that affect the gums. The condition inflames the part of the gums that hold the teeth in place in a person’s mouth as well the gums in between each tooth called the pockets. Periodontal disease can progress to a stage where the patient can lose his/her teeth as well as have substantial bone loss. There are two general forms of periodontal disease: gingivitis and periodontitis.

Both periodontal diseases start with the formation of bacteria at the base of the gums especially in the pockets. Bacteria forms naturally in the mouth but when foods are eaten, the sugars convert into bacteria forming even more plaque. When plaque sticks to the surface of the tooth, it distributes even more bacteria which causes inflammation. After plaque consistently adheres to the tooth, it hardens and forms tartar. With both plaque and tartar helping to infect the tooth, gingivitis forms. Gingivitis is the mildest type of periodontal disease and is typically an inflammation of the gums. The disorder is mainly caused by a lack of oral hygiene although there are other factors that can make someone more susceptible to the disease.

Periodontis is the progression of gingivitis. It is dangerous over a period of time since the gums and bone below the teeth become infected. The teeth can become loose because of a lack of structure (gum tissue) holding it in place as well as bone loss beneath the tooth.

Other causes of gingivitis and periodontitis include: poor diet, accumulation of dental plaque, systemic disease such as diabetes, misaligned teeth, oral appliances causing irritation, certain types of medication and over brushing/flossing.

Do You Have Periodontal Disease?

The most common signs of periodontal disease can be very obvious. Recognition of the symptoms is important in the prevention of gingivitis turning into periodontitis. Symptoms that a doctor will diagnose during a dental exam include:

  • Swollen, red , tender, inflamed and/or shiny gums
  • Persistent foul breath or halitosis
  • Gum swelling
  • Bleeding of the gums especially during teeth brushing
  • Formation of plaque and tartar at the base of the tooth
  • Gum recession making the teeth look longer and the gums in between forming large pockets
  • Loose teeth

Facts and Fallacies about Periodontal Disease

There are many myths and facts about periodontal disease and as well as many misconceptions that make it difficult to recognize the disorder. Some of the facts and fallacies include:

  • MYTH - Gum disease is uncommon. Correction: Gum disease is very common and it afflicts 80% of the adult population. Since the disease starts with plaque and bacteria growth, and all people have bacteria in their mouths, most of the population is at risk for developing a periodontal disease.
  • FACT - Gum disease can affect general health and lead to other conditions. Periodontal disease can affect the birth of babies, osteoporosis, heart complications, head and neck cancer, diabetes and respiratory disease.
  • MYTH - Smoking does not affect the development of periodontitis. Correction: Smoking causes over half of the periodontal cases that dentists see today. Because tobacco hardens plaque onto the teeth, creates deeper pockets and accelerates bone and tissue loss, tobacco puts smokers into a high periodontal risk category.
  • FACT - Periodontal disease can be caused by genetics. Up to 30% of periodontal cases are caused by genetics. With higher genetic susceptibility, catching a periodontal condition early, in order for it to be treated, is the best course of action.
  • MYTH - Cavities are the number one cause of tooth loss. Correction: Periodontitis is the number one cause of tooth loss.
  • MYTH - Dental hygiene can stop the progression of a periodontal condition. Correction: While brushing teeth and flossing are important to help fight the growth of bacteria, they may not be enough to fight a case of gingivitis or periodontitis. Some remedies include a thorough dental cleaning, a pocket reduction surgery, reshaping the bone supporting the teeth, elimination of parts of the gum tissue and tissue and bone grafting.
  • FACT - Bleeding gums are a warning sign of gum infection. Any amount of bleeding coming from the gums is a potential warning sign of the condition. Consultation with a dentist is recommended if this occurs.
  • FACT - Dental implants are the best option for lost teeth. Dental implants, crowns or bridges may be installed by a dentist to compensate for a lost tooth due to periodontitis.

Is Gum Disease Contagious?

Since bacteria in the saliva stores some of the bacteria that infects the gums, saliva and therefore periodontal disease causing bacteria can be transferred from one person to the next. Things such as kissing, coughing, sneezing, and sharing food, utensils or drinks can potentially spread bacteria. Because the infection starts under the gums, some argue that the disease is not transmittable. The best course of action is to talk to a dentist and eliminate any direct contact with another person’s saliva.

How to Find A Periodontist

A periodontist is a specific type of dental practitioner that specializes in gum disease including evaluation, prevention and treatment. He/she will be trained to recognize the warning signs of periodontal disease as well as proper treatment. Also ask if the periodontist a part of the American Academy of Periodontology.

How to Find A Periodontist Near You

Many dental offices have a periodontist on staff or can help a patient locate one. A web search will also yield a list of practicing periodontists.

Periodontal Disease and Family Members

There are two ways that periodontal disease can be transacted through family members: direct contact or genetic inheritance.

It has been shown through studies that periodontal disease can be transmitted between couples and family members. Because saliva can transmit bacteria, sometimes it is best for a periodontist to evaluate an entire family for the presence of gingivitis or periodontitis.

Research has also linked periodontal disease to genetics. If a parent has any type of difficulties, it is best for a periodontist to look into preventative treatment for the child.

Warning Signs of Periodontal Diseases

Warning signs for periodontal disease can range anywhere from mild to very severe. It is best to catch the early warning signs to prevent gingivitis or gingivitis worsening into periodontitis. Some of the most common things that signal periodontal diseases are:

  • Bleeding gums especially when brushing teeth
  • Red and sore gums
  • Inflamed gums
  • Pain while chewing
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Consistently bad breath
  • Build up of plaque at the base of the tooth
  • Presence of pus
  • Loss of gum tissue or receding gums
  • Jaw and bite misalignment