Among the most common disease entities in the United States today is periodontal disease. In some form, it is thought to afflict more than 90% of the population. Fortunately, if treated early and with a good oral home care regimen, the disease process is almost totally preventable. Unfortunately, periodontal disease, because it presents few symptoms in its early and moderate stages, often goes untreated. This can lead to severe bone loss, gum infection and eventually to tooth loss. Proper brushing, flossing and semi-annual visits to your dentist can drastically decrease the possibility of severe periodontal disease.
The first stage of periodontal disease is gingivitis. This is inflammation of the gums without any concurrent bone loss around the teeth. The gums tend to become red and puffy and may bleed during flossing and brushing. Gingivitis is totally reversible. Improving oral home care habits such as proper brushing and flossing techniques and frequent professional cleanings at the dental office can easily reverse gingivitis and restore the gums to their healthy uninflamed state.
The next stage of periodontal disease is called early periodontitis. This involves inflammation of the gum tissue accompanied by some bone loss around the teeth. The symptoms of early periodontitis are similar to those of gingivitis. Radiographic evidence of bone loss is noted when taking dental x-rays and probing by the dentist using a periodontal probe will show “pocketing” or areas of bone loss. There are many ways to treat early periodontitis including scaling and root planning, periodontal surgery, antibiotic therapy and even treatment with a laser.
Advanced periodontitis involves severe bone loss and deep pocketing. Symptoms may include gum infections, bleeding gums, loose teeth and bad breath. If a large amount of bone has been destroyed by periodontal infection, the tooth may not be able to be restored and the tooth may need to be extracted. In order to retain the remaining teeth, periodontal surgical procedures and other treatment regimens may be necessary. Severe periodontal disease and bone loss may necessitate dental implants or partial or full dentures.
In most cases, periodontal disease is preventable by maintaining good home care oral hygiene regimens and by visiting your dentist regularly. It is a disease which need not afflict as many Americans as it does. With regular dental visits, periodontal disease can be stopped before a patient suffers any serious tooth or bone loss.
Make sure to call your dentist and to schedule an appointment for routine checkups and professional dental cleanings and do not hesitate to call if you happen to be experiencing any symptoms or changes in your oral health. If you believe you may have gum disease, no matter what the stage, it is imperative that you seek treatment immediately. A simple appointment can save your smile.