Periodontal disease (also frequently referred to as “gum disease” or “periodontitis”) is the #1 cause of adult tooth loss in the United States. Fortunately it’s also preventable, as long as you know how to identify the signs of a gum infection and treat them during the earliest stages of gingivitis.
Gingivitis vs. Periodontal Disease
Most of us will experience gingivitis at some point in our lives. The condition involves minor redness and swelling along the gumlines and is typically due to a lack of adequate oral hygiene. Perhaps you didn’t brush well when you were sick or skipped a few days of flossing. In turn, those plaque bacteria triggered an immune response that resulted in inflammation and irritation.
Fortunately, gingivitis is usually reversible within about two weeks of dedicated, daily brushing and flossing. Left untreated, however, it will eventually progress into periodontal disease.
What Exactly is Periodontal Disease?
Gingivitis only involves the outermost edges (margins) of your gum tissues. But if the infection progresses, it spreads into the adjacent tissues. In turn, your attached gingiva (gums) and the supporting bone structures will begin to erode and detach from the root of the tooth.
As tissues detach, they create deep “pockets” around the tooth, between the gums and the root surface. The deeper the pocket, the more aggressive the periodontal infection is. Although it’s normal — healthy even — to have shallow sulcuses of 1-3mm deep around teeth, anything deeper than that will mean the tissues have actively detached from the tooth.
Moderate periodontal disease typically consists of pockets 4-6mm deep. But advanced periodontal disease will usually involve pockets 7mm or deeper. The deeper the pocket, the more severe the bone loss is.
Signs of a Gum Infection
Symptoms of periodontal disease include (but are not limited to):
- Bleeding gums
- Bad breath
- Tooth mobility or loss
- Heavy tartar buildup
- Gum recession
- Gaps between teeth
- Changes in tooth alignment
During your exam, we’ll also measure the depth of each pocket and take a series of X-rays to visualize the bone height around each tooth.
The Health Risks
Although the signs of a gum infection may be isolated to your mouth, the effects can be far reaching. The bacteria that cause this disease are known for spreading through infected gum pockets and directly into the bloodstream. In turn, they can lodge themselves elsewhere and trigger inflammation.
We know through numerous studies that untreated, advanced periodontal disease can make it difficult to manage blood glucose levels, increase the chances of pneumonia, heart attack, and stroke, and even lead to problems with infertility, erectile dysfunction, and preeclampsia.
Noticing the signs of a gum infection can help you avoid tooth loss, but it is also an essential step in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Treatment for Periodontal Disease: Dentist in Arvada
Now that you know what to look for and how dangerous gum disease can be, what’s the best treatment option?
For most moderate cases of periodontal disease, dentists will recommend a series of “deep cleanings” or periodontal therapy. These thorough, detailed scaling visits remove the heavy bacterial colonies under the gum tissues to establish a clean area that jump-starts healing. Since the pockets are too deep to clean with a toothbrush and floss, professional periodontal therapy is the only viable option.
Depending on your body’s response to the treatment and re-vamped home care, you may need to schedule maintenance cleanings as often as every 3-4 months thereafter. Hopefully the tissues will heal and partially re-attach to the root surface. If so, that means your infection is under control.
Don’t Risk Your Smile
Think you have periodontal disease? Dentists and hygienists at Arvada Dental Center can help you spot the signs of a gum infection and address it as early as possible.
If you have bleeding gums or visible tartar buildup, contact our Arvada office today to plan a periodontal evaluation and exam. Your smile could depend on it!