The milder form of periodontal disease, gingivitis, is relatively easy to miss. Its symptoms may include mild bleeding of the gums after brushing and flossing, chronic bad breath, and progressive gum recession. Yet, these symptoms can come and go over a lengthy period of time and may not be caused by gum disease at all.
That said, if you are experiencing symptoms that may indicate the earliest stages of gum disease, now is the time to take action. If you wait too long, here are the dangers you could face:
- Your gum disease will advance and become periodontitis. Bacterial pockets will form between gums and teeth, infections, pus, and swelling may occur.
- Ultimately, without proper periodontal treatment, your gum disease will progress until it results in tooth loss.
- Bacteria in the mouth and chronically inflamed gums may lead to systemic inflammation. Untreated gum disease also increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, dementia, and (in pregnant women) birth defects.
Preventing Gum Disease
Prevention is always preferable to to trying to treat the problem after it has developed. The best way to prevent gum disease is threefold:
- Good oral hygiene at home. This means regular brushing and flossing and use of an antiseptic mouthwash. But it also means avoiding excessive consumption of high-sugar foods/drinks and eating foods like apples that naturally clean your teeth.
- Regular check-ups and teeth cleanings. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends two dental check-ups per year to catch oral health problems early.
- Awareness of symptoms and periodontal check-ups. Being aware of the symptoms to look for can help you catch gum disease early and reverse it. Scheduling a periodontal check-up with a licensed periodontist is the ideal way to check up on your suspicion you may have gum disease.
In the earliest stages, you may need to do nothing more to counteract periodontal disease than to implement a new oral hygiene regimen. In more advanced stages, however, here are the most common available treatment options:
- Scaling and root planing. This involves scraping the plaque off of tooth roots and smoothing the surface of roots to prevent easy bacterial build-up.
- Tray delivery systems. These are trays custom-molded to the shape of your mouth that deliver medications prescribed by your periodontist.
- Gum graft or gum flap surgery. To correct overly exposed roots, tissue is either grafted over the exposed area or your gums are cut and folded over it. The end result is the same: your teeth are better protected, greatly lowering the risk of tooth loss.
- Dental implants. Teeth already lost due to periodontal disease can be replaced by titanium dental implants that bond to the underlying jaw bone. These implants are strong, fully functional, and last for decades.