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What Is Periodontal Disease?

What Is Gum Disease?

Periodontal diseases are infections of the gums starting with gingivitis, which gradually destroys the support of your natural teeth. Dental plaque is the primary cause of gum disease when left untreated. Bacteria found in plaque produce toxins or poisons, which irritate the gums. They may cause them to turn red, swell and bleed easily. If this irritation is prolonged, the gums separate from the teeth, causing pockets (spaces) to form.

How gum disease starts

Plaque can harden into a rough, porous substance known as calculus (or tartar). This can occur both above and below the gum line and between teeth. As periodontal disease progresses, the surrounding and supporting gum tissue and bone that hold teeth in place deteriorate. If left untreated, this leads to tooth loss. You can still have periodontal disease without the presence of bleeding, redness and swelling, so frequent dental exams are necessary. Further, pain is usually not associated with periodontal disease. This disease damages the teeth, gum and jawbone of up to 80% of Americans by age 45 according to research studies.
Gums should not bleed when you touch or brush them. If you develop gingivitis, the initial stage of periodontal disease, it is your gums that will primarily be affected.

Symptoms of Gingivitis, the first stage, may include:

  • Bleeding gums, especially after brushing
  • Tender & painful gums
  • Swelling & red gums

Symptoms of Periodontitis, the second stage, may include:

  • Bad breath & foul taste
  • Bleeding gums have intensified or sometimes bleed spontaneously
  • Difficulty eating
  • Pus from the gums
  • Teeth becoming loose and gaps (diastemas) can form
  • Teeth falling out
  • Abscessed gums (collection of infected fluid)

Periodontal Care

Periodontal Disease can and must be stabilized. Periodontal treatment is necessary when various conditions affect the health of your gums and the regions of your jawbone which hold your teeth in place. Retaining your teeth is directly dependent on proper periodontal care and maintenance. Healthy gums enhance the appearance of your teeth, like a frame around a beautiful painting. When your gums become unhealthy, they can either recede or become swollen and red. In later stages, the supporting bone is destroyed and your teeth can shift, loosen, or fall out. These changes not only affect your ability to chew and speak; they also destroy your smile. During Periodontal Disease, bad bacteria circulates throughout your body via the bloodstream which can cause or worsen inflammatory systemic diseases.

Certain factors can increase the risk, severity and speed at which periodontal disease develops. This includes factors such as:

  • Malocclusion (crooked teeth or bad bite)
  • Bridges which no longer fit properly or fillings that have become defective
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Genetics
  • Medications, such as steroids, some types of anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, some calcium channel blockers, and oral contraceptives.
  • Osteoporosis
  • Menopause
  • Systemic diseases, such as leukemia, AIDS or diabetes
  • Stress
  • Pregnancy
  • Poor diet
  • Clenching or grinding teeth

Regular dental checkups and periodontal examinations are very important. The treatment methods that Dr. Aeschliman recommends will depend upon the type and severity of the disease. Good dental care at home is essential to preventing gum disease from recurring or becoming more serious. We provide instructions and guidelines to help every individual patient reduce, minimize or stop periodontal (gum) disease. We may suggest additional home tools such as an electric brush and a water flosser to help you get the best results possible.

If you or a loved one is in need of periodontal care, please speak with your general dentist for a referral to Dr. Aeschliman or call us today at (509) 489-6850, or click the Request Appointment button above and we will contact you to schedule an appointment.

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