If you have been diagnosed with periodontal disease, you are not alone. Many others have the same problem. Finding the disease is the first step in preventing tooth loss.
What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal (perry-o-DON-tal) disease is an infection that affects the tissues and bone that support teeth. Healthy gum tissue fits like a cuff around each tooth. When someone has periodontal disease, the gum tissue pulls away from the tooth. As the disease worsens, the tissue and bone that support the tooth are destroyed. Over time, teeth may fall out or need to be removed. Treating periodontal disease in the early stages can help prevent tooth loss.
Periodontal disease and whole-body health
Tooth loss is not the only possible problem posed by periodontal diseases. There may be a link between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke). High stress may also be linked to periodontal disease. Researchers are still studying these links.
Several warning signs that can signal a problem. If you notice any of the following, see your dentist:
- Gums that bleed when you brush or floss
- Red, swollen, or tender gums
- Gums that have pulled away from your teeth
- Bad breath that doesn't go away
- Pus between the teeth and gums
- Loose or separating teeth
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- A change in the fit of your partial dentures
Are you at risk?
People who smoke or chew tobacco are more likely to have periodontal disease. Periodontal treatment is also less successful in patients who continue to smoke.
Diseases that affect the whole body - such as diabetes, blood cell disorders, HIV infections, and AIDS - can lower resistance to infection, making periodontal disease more severe.
Many medications - like steroids, some anti-seizure drugs, cancer therapy drugs, blood pressure drugs and birth control pills - can affect the gums. Some medications have side effects that reduce saliva. A lack of saliva can result in a constant dry mouth, which can irritate soft tissues. Tell your dentist about all your medications and any changes that occur in your health.
Teens, pregnant women and those taking birth control pills face changes in the body's hormone levels. These changes can cause gum tissue to become more sensitive to the toxins produced by bacteria.
Genes may play a role. Some patients may be more likely to get a more severe type of periodontitis. If your parents wear dentures or you have a family history of tooth loss, be extra alert for changes to your gums.
How do I know if I have periodontal disease?
It can be hard to know. You can have periodontal disease without clear symptoms. That's why regular dental checkups and periodontal examinations are very important.