Periodontal Disease 101

periodontal Don’t underestimate your gums. Sure they may look pink and soft like a wad of Double Bubble. Sure you can make them bleed sometimes when you floss. But deep down they are strong. Their job, after all, is to be the bodyguard for the roots of your teeth.

But prevention is key with your gums. Treat them well and do the required home dental care and they will take care of your teeth. Treat them with indifference and your future will include many hours spent in a dental chair.

What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease is the medical term for gum disease, periodontitis, if you want to get downright clinical. It involves infection of the gums that doesn’t end well if it isn’t addressed. The end result is tooth loss and a guest spot on Moonshiners.

But gum disease is absolutely preventable. It comes down to plaque. Plaque is the sticky film that forms on your teeth throughout the day. Plaque has lots of bacteria in it. While it sounds tough, plaque is actually very easy to remove just by daily brushing and flossing. In fact, a good home dental hygiene program of brushing twice daily for two minutes and flossing once a day is usually enough for most people to never have to deal with gum disease.

But if you treat your home hygiene indifferently, and if you throw in lifestyle choices such as smoking, plaque can have its way with your mouth. When plaque isn’t removed it hardens into calculus, also known as tartar. Tartar can only be removed by professional cleanings.

First comes gingivitis, then comes periodontitis

Prevention is key because gum disease isn’t like some other disease where you didn’t know you had it until one day your doctor says you do. With gum disease there will be plenty of signs that it is developing. The bacteria in plaque produce toxins that irritate the gums. Irritated gums are not happy gums, and they become red and bleed easily. Plus, the tartar that has formed gradually makes its way below the gumline, leading to more irritation. This irritation is called gingivitis.

You may have created this situation with lax home care, but at this point you can still reverse things with a professional cleaning from the team at Gentle Dental and more diligent home care. But if you don’t opt for this route, the gum irritation worsens and the gums begin to pull away from the teeth causing pockets to form. These pockets hold the bacteria from the plaque and that bacteria begin to attack the roots of the teeth. You can see where this is leading — tooth loss and jawbone deterioration.

Now, a trip to our office will be necessary just to keep your teeth. Our team will need to do things such as gum planing and scaling. You may receive an antibiotic prescription if infection has taken hold. A root canal could be required to save a tooth or teeth.

And to think, all of this could have been prevented with simple brushing and flossing at home, combined with twice-yearly visits to Gentle Dental for professional cleaning and exams. Call us at (732) 549-5660 to make your next appointment.

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