Periodontal disease, commonly known as gum disease, affects millions of people, yet its seriousness is often underestimated or misunderstood. In this blog, we’ll discuss the realities of periodontal disease, common misconceptions, and explore its vast impacts on overall health.

What is Periodontal Disease (Gum Disease)?

Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the gums and other supporting structures around the teeth. It typically begins with gingivitis, characterized by red, swollen gums that may bleed easily when brushing or flossing. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, where the gums pull away from the teeth, forming pockets that become infected. Over time, the infection can destroy the bone and connective tissues that hold teeth in place, leading to tooth loss. Periodontal disease is often caused by poor oral hygiene that allows plaque—a sticky film of bacteria—to build up on teeth. Other factors such as smoking, genetic predisposition, certain medications, and systemic diseases can also contribute to its development.

What are symptoms of Periodontal Disease?

The symptoms of gum disease can vary depending on the severity of the condition. In the early stage, known as gingivitis, common symptoms include red, swollen, and tender gums that may bleed easily, especially during brushing or flossing. Persistent bad breath and a metallic taste in the mouth are also indicators of gingivitis. As gum disease progresses to periodontitis, symptoms become more pronounced and may include receding gums, deepening pockets between the teeth and gums, loose or shifting teeth, and changes in the way teeth fit together when biting. Some individuals may experience pus between the teeth and gums, as well as persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth. If left untreated, periodontal disease can lead to irreversible damage to the gums and bone supporting the teeth, eventually resulting in tooth loss.

Common Misconceptions of Periodontal Disease

One of the most common misconceptions about periodontal disease is that bleeding gums are normal and will resolve on their own. Many people ignore bleeding gums, attributing them to brushing too hard or using a firm toothbrush. However, gum bleeding is often a sign of gingivitis, the early stage of periodontal disease. Gingivitis is characterized by inflammation of the gums caused by plaque buildup around the gumline. Without proper treatment, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, a more severe form of gum disease that damages the soft tissue and destroys the bone supporting the teeth.

Another common myth is that gum disease is a minor issue compared to other health conditions. In reality, periodontal disease is incredibly prevalent and can have significant consequences if left untreated. It is estimated to be more common than many well-known diseases such as cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and even heart disease.

Some people believe no cavities mean healthy gums. This simply isn’t true. The bacteria that cause cavities is a different type than that of periodontal disease. You can have perfectly healthy teeth and still have receding or bleeding gums at the same time.

How does Periodontal Disease link to my overall health?

Beyond its impact on oral health, periodontal disease has been linked to various systemic diseases and conditions:

  • Heart Disease: Research suggests a connection between gum disease and heart disease. The inflammation caused by periodontal disease may increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Diabetes: Individuals with diabetes are more susceptible to infections, including gum infections. Conversely, periodontal disease can make it harder to control blood sugar levels, potentially worsening diabetic symptoms.
  • Stroke: Studies have found that people with gum disease may have an increased risk of suffering from strokes caused by blocked arteries.
  • Cancer: While the evidence is still emerging, some research indicates a potential link between gum disease and certain types of cancer, including pancreatic cancer.

These connections underscore the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene and seeking prompt treatment for gum disease. By addressing periodontal disease early, individuals can potentially reduce their risk of developing or exacerbating other serious health conditions.

Prevention and Treatment

Prevention is key when it comes to periodontal disease. This includes regular brushing and flossing to remove plaque, as well as professional dental cleanings and check-ups. Early signs of gum disease, such as bleeding gums, should never be ignored. Consulting a dentist at the first indication of gum problems can prevent the condition from progressing to a more severe stage.

Treatment options for gum disease depend on its severity but often include scaling and root planing (deep cleaning), antibiotic treatments, and in more advanced cases, surgical intervention to restore gum health and prevent tooth loss. People with periodontal disease require more frequent dental cleanings called periodontal maintenance appointments to help control the disease and prevent it from returning. Periodontal maintenance cleanings are done at more frequent intervals, normally somewhere between 3 to 4 times per year.

At 101st Adult Dentistry, we treat all stages of Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is more than just a dental issue—it is a health concern with serious implications for your overall well-being. By recognizing the link between gum disease and systemic health conditions, individuals can take proactive steps to protect their oral and general health. Regular dental visits, diligent oral hygiene practices, and awareness of the signs of gum disease are crucial in maintaining a healthy smile and a healthy body.

If you suspect you may have gum disease or have noticed bleeding gums, don’t hesitate to schedule a dental appointment with our office. Early intervention can make a significant difference in preserving both your oral health and your overall quality of life.