Periodontal disease, or gum disease or periodontitis, is a common dental condition that affects over half of American adults and is the leading cause of tooth loss in the developed world. Beyond tooth loss, some of the risks of gum disease are Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease. It’s important to keep your teeth healthy and keep regular visits with Dr. Donald Alexander in Jacksonville, FL.
What is Periodontal Disease?
The word periodontal means “around the tooth.” It refers to a disease of the gum tissues surrounding the teeth, as well as the underlying jawbone that keep the teeth in place. It starts with bacteria in the mouth and can end in tooth loss or more serious infection.
What Causes Periodontal Disease?
Gum disease is caused by bacteria that build up on the teeth to form plaque. If this plaque is not removed by brushing, flossing, and regular dental checkups, it hardens and forms tartar, which destroys teeth. Other causes include smoking, poor nutrition, stress, clenching or grinding teeth, or even certain illnesses.
In response to the bacteria eating away at the gums, our bodies release defense cells that cause the areas around the teeth to become inflamed and swollen, which is why they may appear red or even bleed. This swelling causes the gums to pull away from the teeth, leaving behind small pockets that allow even more bacteria to settle in.
Stages of Periodontal Disease
Having symptoms of periodontitis does not mean instant tooth loss. Gingivitis is a common problem, where gums are inflamed but the jaw bone is not affected. You can reverse these symptoms by improving your dental hygiene and make sure you floss often. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to more serious gum disease.
Periodontitis occurs when gingivitis has progressed to affect the underlying bone. Pockets created by the gum inflammation become deeper, allowing more bacteria to invade, eventually reaching the jawbone underneath. Eventually, as the jaw bone is destroyed, teeth lose their support and fall out.
Symptoms of Periodontal Disease
- Bleeding gums, especially while brushing and flossing
- Swollen or painful gums
- Pockets between teeth and surrounding gums
- Loose or shifting teeth
- Teeth that shift when biting down
- Persistent bad breath or bad taste in the mouth
When To See a Dentist
Many people do not even know they have gum disease, so it’s important to keep regular dental checkups with your dentist and maintain good oral hygiene. Even people with excellent oral hygiene can have mild symptoms that should be examined early. Your dentist can perform x-rays and a physical examination to make sure your teeth, gums, and jawbone are healthy.
Dr. Alexander is a family dentist in Jacksonville who is committed to preventing, diagnosing, and treating periodontal disease. Regular cleanings and checkups are key in preventing gum disease and preserving your overall health. Schedule an appointment online or call our office at 904.372.8157 today.