Understanding Gum Disease from Beginning to End

Periodontal disease affects millions of adults in the United States and ranks as the second-most-common dental disease. You might even be surprised to learn that periodontitis (advanced gum disease) is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults, not untreated tooth decay.

Periodontitis can be detrimental to your oral health and can cause permanent damage to your gums, teeth, and even your facial structure and jaw bone. It’s important for all adults to be aware of gum disease, including preventing it from happening and understanding what happens if gum disease is already present.

Before Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease, like tooth decay, is largely a preventable condition. Following a great at-home dental care routine, seeing a dentist on a regular basis, and being aware of potential risk factors are all important steps in preventing or halting active gum disease.

Let’s take a look at caring for your smile before periodontal disease.

Know the Signs of Gum Disease and its Stages

Gum disease develops over time, beginning with gingivitis and peaking as periodontitis.

Gingivitis is a state of chronic gum inflammation. When gums become irritated, often from plaque buildup, the tissue becomes irritated and tender. Its symptoms include puffy or red gums, bleeding while flossing and brushing, and halitosis.

Periodontitis is the most advanced form of gum disease and can permanently harm your smile. When irritated and inflamed gums are left untreated, it invites infection. A gum infection is a clear symptom of periodontitis, along with severe halitosis, oral pain, loose teeth, and receding gum lines.

All stages of gum disease require a dentist’s intervention, no matter how mild symptoms may seem.

Follow a Thorough Dental Care Regimen at Home

Poor oral hygiene is typically the trigger for gingivitis and periodontitis. Combat this by paying close attention to how you clean your teeth. Brush twice a day for two minutes and floss at least once daily, paying close attention to cleaning around your gum line and in between teeth. Use a tongue scraper to remove additional oral bacteria and finish with a mouth rinse recommended by your dentist.

Caring for your smile at home also includes your diet. Eat a nutritious diet with minimal processed foods, limit your intake of sugars and starches, and be cautious of hidden sugars in drinks. A healthy, varied diet is equally as important for oral health as brushing and flossing.

Visit Your Dentist on Their Recommended Schedule

Most adults with good oral health only need to visit their dentist every six months for a cleaning and general exam. However, occasionally a dentist may recommend more frequent visits, especially if a patient’s lifestyle, general health, or genetics make them more at risk for developing plaque and gum disease. Always follow your dentist’s advice on how often your smile should be seen.

Be Aware of Any Periodontitis Risk Factors

Systemic disease, medications, and lifestyle habits can make you more likely to develop periodontitis. Some examples of risk factors include diabetes, cardiovascular disease, medication-induced dry mouth, smoking and tobacco use, and excessive alcohol consumption.

After Periodontal Disease

Discovering that you have gum disease may not feel like a positive experience, but a confirmed diagnosis is actually a blessing in disguise! It means that you and your dentist have determined there’s a problem and you can now both focus on recovering your gum health.

Here are the steps to take after periodontitis has developed.

Periodontal Therapy with Your Dentist

Periodontal therapy is an important step in recovering from periodontitis. For an active infection, antibiotics will often be the first step, followed by a series of deep cleanings to debride the teeth and gum pockets of damaged tissue and bacteria. Antimicrobial therapy will also help to destroy bacteria in cases of periodontitis.

These deep-cleaning sessions will continue until your periodontal disease is in remission, but you may still need to return for general cleanings at more frequent intervals, such as every three to four months.

Repairing Damage from Periodontitis

Once the infection is gone, your dentist can help you repair any permanent damage that has occurred from your periodontitis. This includes protecting vulnerable teeth with dental crowns, reshaping receded gums with laser surgery and veneers, and replacing missing teeth with dental implants or a bridge.

Even if your smile has experienced extreme damage from periodontitis, there is always a solution to get back a beautiful, full smile.

Improving At-Home Dental Care Habits

Preventing recurrence is crucial after you’ve had periodontitis. Many patients who’ve had periodontitis once are at a greater risk of developing it again. This is why a great dentist will go over your at-home dental care habits to find ways you might be able to improve your oral hygiene in between office visits. This might be a refresher on the basics or recommending new oral care products to try, such as professional antimicrobial mouthrinses, products designed for gum health, and tools like a powered toothbrush and water flosser.

Protect your gum health by visiting an experienced dentist on a regular basis.

The dentist you choose to care for your smile has a big impact on your current and future gum health. When you find a dental care team you genuinely enjoy visiting, you’re more likely to maintain the recommended six-month schedule for checkups and cleanings. Similarly, finding a dentist that is experienced and knowledgeable in dentistry as well as periodontal health will give you peace of mind that your teeth and gums are equally prioritized.

Millennium Dental provides a skilled, gentle approach to dental care, with services including general and preventive dentistry, restorative and cosmetic dentistry, and periodontal therapy for all stages of gum disease.

To learn more about periodontal disease and how to protect your gum health, schedule an appointment with Dr. Harrison by calling our Plano, TX, office or using this online form.