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Understanding Periodontal Disease

Neglecting your oral health can lead to serious concerns. Are you experiencing inflamed gums and bleeding when brushing and flossing? You could have gingivitis or worse, the beginning stages of periodontal disease. Family Dentistry of Lakewood wants to help explain periodontal health and disease so you are better informed about your oral health.

What is periodontal health?

Periodontal health is the foundation of oral health and consists of the structure surrounding and supporting the teeth. Good periodontal health is indicated by pink gums, no inflammation, and no bleeding when brushing and flossing.

What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory gum infection that damages the soft tissue and can destroy the bone that supports the teeth.

Some of the warning signs of periodontal disease are:

● Red, tender, or swollen gums

● Receding gums or longer appearing teeth

● Loose or separating teeth

● Bleeding while brushing or flossing

● Tooth sensitivity

Risk factors of periodontal disease are wide-ranging.

Below are a few of the most significant:

● Poor oral health (not brushing and flossing teeth regularly)

● Smoking

● Certain diseases such as uncontrolled diabetes, Rheumatoid arthritis, and Crohn’s disease

● Poor nutrition

● Conditions that cause decreased immunity, such as cancer and AIDS

The primary cause of periodontal disease is poor oral hygiene. Poor oral hygiene produces bacteria which creates a plaque buildup on your teeth. Over time, the plaque hardens, creating tarter, also known as calculus. This tarter forms along the gum line, making it difficult to clean your teeth and gums. Your own immune system does what it can to fight the bacteria, but prolonged exposure will eventually degrade the gums and bones.

What is gingivitis?

Gingivitis is a gum inflammation that typically precedes periodontal disease. Gingivitis causes red, swollen gums with a tendency to bleed, especially during brushing and flossing. Gingivitis is reversible but, if left unchecked, can lead to periodontal disease.

Once gingivitis advances to periodontal disease, it is no longer reversible but manageable. This means extra care will be needed to ensure periodontal disease does not progress. As the bacteria grows, it becomes more aggressive, resulting in bone loss, receding gums, and gums detaching from the teeth, creating spaces called pockets. If you don’t seek treatment, the periodontal disease will worsen to moderate periodontal disease. At this stage, bacteria continue to attack the gums and bone, increasing your gum recession. Advanced periodontal disease will destroy your gums and teeth, resulting in 50-90% bone loss.

What can you do to help prevent periodontal disease?

The most important choice you make to prevent periodontal disease is to take care of your overall health and develop an effective oral care routine. The average person brushes their teeth for around 20 seconds per day. It’s recommended to brush your teeth twice a day for 2 1⁄2 minutes and floss daily. Implementing this simple change to your oral care routine could be the factor that helps you prevent periodontal disease.

There are other more obvious ways to prevent periodontal disease, such as smoking cessation and making sure any systemic diseases are under control. Seeing your dentist twice per year and ensuring you have routine dental care is essential.

Why is flossing so important?

The lack of blood flow between the teeth contributes to excessive bacteria growth. Flossing not only removes debris but also encourages blood circulation between your teeth. When you floss, you massage the gums and introduce blood flow to the area. With new blood flow, white blood cells (soldiers of your body) move into the area to help fight the bacteria that form in your mouth and improve your chances of maintaining healthy gums.

What can you do if you have periodontal disease?

Once you receive a diagnosis of periodontal disease, it will be essential to seek treatment. At Family Dentistry of Lakewood, we will schedule you for two deep cleaning sessions, each lasting about an hour and a half.

The deep cleanings will involve treating the teeth and the roots and include a scaling and root planing procedure. Scaling involves using special scalers and an ultrasonic device to remove the calculus and bacteria from the tooth surface and beneath the gums, where the pockets have formed. Root planing involves smoothing the teeth and roots and helps the gums reattach to the teeth. The deep cleanings are beneficial in decreasing your chances of bacteria forming in the future.

Once your initial deep cleaning is completed, it will be important to make sure your teeth are cleaned regularly to ensure bacteria will not return and cause further bone loss. Periodontal maintenance is a lifelong process, so we will schedule you for a periodontal maintenance cleaning every 3-to 4 months. As your oral health improves, you will notice your gums becoming pink in color, pockets are decreasing, gums reattaching to your teeth, and no calculus on the roots.

Family Dentistry of Lakewood knows periodontal disease can be scary. It’s important to be proactive so if it’s time for your next cleaning or you notice any signs of gum disease, call 253.584.3121.

We look forward to helping you stay healthy.


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