Discover if you’re at risk for developing periodontal disease and what you can do about it.
Periodontal disease is a widespread oral health issue affecting upwards of 80% of American adults. Statistics gathered by the CDC estimate that about half of adults have periodontitis, the most severe form of gum disease.
You may have seen commercials for gingivitis-fighting products or maybe someone you know has gum disease, leaving you wondering whether or not you should be worried. The simplest answer is not everyone is at high risk for getting periodontal disease, but everyone should be aware of how to prevent it from happening.
The Two Types of Periodontal Disease and How to Tell If You’re Experiencing Symptoms
The term periodontal disease refers to two different types of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontitis. There is also advanced periodontitis.
Most cases of periodontal disease begin as gingivitis.
Gingivitis is the mildest form of periodontal disease, characterized by gum inflammation and tenderness. It’s largely caused by a build-up of plaque irritating the gum tissue.
Signs you may have gingivitis include red or puffy gums and, the most common symptom, bleeding when brushing, flossing, or even eating. Even light bleeding from brushing is considered abnormal and is often your gums telling you there’s a problem.
If left untreated, gingivitis can quickly turn into periodontitis.
When a patient doesn’t notice the symptoms of gingivitis and time goes on without a dental checkup, a mild case of inflammation can take a serious turn.
Periodontitis is the advanced form of periodontal disease and is responsible for the majority of tooth loss in adults. What happens is the plaque buildup from gingivitis continues to worsen, resulting in a case of chronic inflammation within the gums. The bacteria present in your mouth will become trapped within the “pockets” surrounding your teeth, resulting in an infection.
Unlike gingivitis, which is often reversible and easily treated, periodontitis isn’t reversible. Any damage caused by periodontitis is permanent, though after the infection is healed, you can restore your smile with restorative and cosmetic dentistry.
It’s important to see a dentist right away if you ever suspect something is wrong with your gums.
Both gingivitis and periodontitis can happen faster than you think. If you ever feel like your gums are tender, look red or swollen, or you’re noticing pink on your floss or toothbrush, give us a call as soon as you can.
Lifestyle and Health Factors That Can Increase Your Risk of Developing Periodontal Disease
There’s no simple answer to the question of whether you need to be concerned about developing some form of periodontal disease. Some patients may have an immaculate oral care routine and still develop periodontitis. Others may approach oral care casually and never even experience gingivitis.
What is important to understand is what factors in your lifestyle and health could put you at a higher risk for gingivitis or periodontitis.
Some of the most common gum disease risk factors include:
- Poor at-home oral hygiene and infrequent dentist visits
- A family history of gum disease (genetics)
- Pregnancy (gestational periodontal disease)
- Being over the age of 65
- Frequent tobacco and alcohol use
- Chronic stress and tension
- Untreated bruxism or TMJ
- Certain medications (i.e., antidepressants, heart medication)
- Underlying health conditions (cancer, diabetes, heart disease)
- A compromised immune system
As you can see, some risk factors are within your control, but there are also many that aren’t able to be helped, like your age or if you have other health issues. However, even if you can’t change certain risks, you can recognize if you fall into the high-risk category and be extra vigilant in proactively caring for your gum health.
What You Can Do to Prevent Periodontal Disease From Happening to Your Smile
The most effective way to prevent periodontal disease is to level up your oral hygiene regimen at home.
- Brushing after meals or a minimum of twice a day for two minutes
- Floss before brushing at least once daily
- Use a tongue scraper before brushing your teeth
- Finish with an ADA-approved mouthwash
- Upgrade to a powered toothbrush for a deeper clean
- Reduce sugar and starches in your diet whenever possible
Don’t forget to come in to see us every six months for a checkup and dental cleaning as well!
We also encourage you to look for other ways to improve your overall health. Habits like regular exercise and practicing self-care to relieve stress indirectly promote better oral health. Think of it this way: The healthier your body is, the healthier your teeth and gums will be.
The Dickinson & Branon Dental Care team can help you with your periodontal care needs.
If you’re ever concerned about your gum health or suspect you might have gingivitis, our dental team is ready to assist you in any way we can.
In addition to answering all of your questions and concerns about gum disease, we also provide comprehensive, gentle periodontal treatment plans if you are diagnosed. Our treatment options include non-surgical periodontal therapy for mild to moderate cases, as well as surgical treatment for more severe cases.
When you’re ready to book a visit with one of our dentists, you can either call our office or fill out this online appointment request form.