The 411 on Gum Disease
At Portland Periodontics, we receive a lot of questions about what we do at our practice. That’s because unlike many Portland dental offices out there, we don’t focus on preventative care. Instead, Dr. Goldwyn and our team specialize in the treatment of periodontal disease in Portland, which is more commonly known as gum disease. What is periodontal disease, also known as periodontitis, and how can it impact your health? Read on to learn more.
Gingivitis versus periodontal disease
Periodontitis usually begins as gingivitis, or gum inflammation. Both are caused by a buildup of plaque, a sticky biofilm made up of oral bacteria and food particles that produce harmful acids that slowly erode tooth enamel and cause gum inflammation. While daily brushing and flossing removes plaque, even a diligent brusher can miss or not adequately clean certain areas of the mouth. When plaque isn’t removed, it hardens into tartar.
Most people deal with gingivitis at some point in their lives. In its early stages, your gums become irritated and bleed easily during brushing, but there’s no damage to the bone or tissue. Fortunately, gingivitis can be reversed through regular brushing, flossing, and dental cleanings. Left untreated, though, gingivitis can turn into a much bigger problem: periodontitis.
Although the buildup of plaque is the primary cause of periodontitis, there are a variety of other factors that can contribute to it, including:
- Not brushing and flossing daily.
- Smoking, which makes it more difficult for gum tissue to repair itself.
- Hormonal changes such as pregnancy, puberty, and menopause. These can make the gums more susceptible to gingivitis.
- Certain illnesses. For example, people with diabetes are at higher risk of developing cavities, while cancer and HIV impact your immune system.
- Some medications can also affect oral health, such as reducing the amount of saliva you produce or causing abnormal gum tissue growth.
Symptoms to look out for
While only a dentist or a periodontist like Dr. Goldwyn can diagnose gum disease, there are some common signs that you can look out for. First, red, swollen and/or bleeding gums are common symptoms of gingivitis. Red flags that gingivitis has progressed to periodontitis are:
- Chronic bad breath or a foul taste in the mouth
- Gums receding or pulling back from the surface of the teeth
- Deep pockets forming between the teeth and gums
- Loose or shifting teeth
If you experience any of the issues above, contact your dental office right away.
How to treat it
The treatment of periodontitis really depends on how far the disease has progressed. In its earliest stages, a thorough cleaning of the pockets around the teeth and a twice-a-day regiment of brushing and flossing may be all that’s needed. Other less invasive treatments include scaling, which removes tartar and bacteria using a laser or ultrasonic device; root planting, which smooths the root surfaces to discourage further buildup; and taking topical or oral antibiotics to help control the infection. However, if the disease has progressed more significantly, your dentist or periodontist might recommend surgical treatments.
How we can help
Remember, the key to preventing periodontal disease is controlling plaque buildup. Along with practicing good oral hygiene every day, it’s essential that you visit your dentist every six months for check-ups and professional cleanings. If you do notice any signs of periodontitis, make an appointment as soon as possible. The sooner you seek care, the better your chances of reversing the damage. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact our office today.