Protecting your smile means understanding how to prevent periodontal disease.
The key to your healthiest, most beautiful smile is stopping oral health issues in their tracks before they become a problem. In order to protect your smile from damage, you need to become familiar with common oral health enemies—especially periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease, commonly known as gum disease, is the leading cause of tooth loss in American adults. Authorities believe that close to 80% of the adult population in the United States has some form of gum disease while about 47% have periodontitis, the most advanced form of gum disease.
Despite being such a common oral health issue, many patients are unaware of what exactly periodontal disease is.
Many adults with periodontal disease don’t really learn about this oral health issue until after they’re diagnosed with it. At that point, it’s often too late for preventive care. This is a big reason why Dr. Harris really focuses on patient education.
The more you know about periodontal disease, the better prepared you’ll be to fight against it! So let’s go over the basics of periodontal disease.
There are two main types of periodontal disease—gingivitis and periodontitis.
Gingivitis is considered a mild form of gum disease characterized by inflammation of the gums.
Gingivitis most often occurs due to poor oral hygiene causing plaque to build up, though a number of other risk factors can be at play. For example, smoking, preexisting health conditions, hormonal imbalances, and even pregnancy can all increase your chances of developing gingivitis—even if your oral hygiene is great.
Gingivitis typically responds very well to treatment and isn’t likely to cause any sort of permanent damage. Overall, gingivitis is a mild-to-moderate oral health concern that is reversible.
However, without treatment gingivitis will worsen, turning into periodontitis.
Periodontitis is an advanced form of gum disease capable of irreversible damage.
If plaque isn’t removed and the build-up begins to spread below the gum line, bacteria become trapped in the pockets surrounding the teeth. This stimulates a natural inflammatory response, but when inflammation becomes chronic damage begins to occur.
Periodontitis is a serious oral health condition. It’s characterized by not only severe gum inflammation but also a live infection within the gum tissue surrounding the teeth. The same risk factors for gingivitis also apply to periodontitis, meaning if your lifestyle or health put you at risk for gingivitis, you’re more likely to also develop periodontitis.
The American Academy of Periodontology breaks down periodontitis into four forms, aggressive, chronic, necrotizing, and systemic.
Periodontitis is treatable, but it isn’t reversible like gingivitis. You’ll need intensive periodontal therapy treatment and any permanent damage that occurs to the gum tissue, teeth, and bone can be fixed with restorative and cosmetic dentistry after the infection is healed.
Preventing periodontal disease starts by eliminating lifestyle risk factors and knowing what red flags to look for.
Some risk factors are unavoidable, such as age, genetics, or underlying health conditions (i.e. diabetes), but most are well within your control.
A great oral hygiene routine is the most important way of preventing gingivitis and periodontitis.
The most common cause of periodontal diseases is poor oral hygiene. By committing to a thorough at-home care regimen you’ll significantly reduce your chances of developing gingivitis and periodontitis.
Your oral hygiene routine should include the following:
- Brushing twice a day for two minutes
- Flossing before your bedtime brushing
- Swishing with an ADA-approved mouthwash
- Using a tongue scraper before brushing your teeth
- Maintaining six-month dental checkups and cleanings
Eating a nutritious, varied diet, and limiting foods high in sugar and starch is also part of caring for your teeth. Your diet directly corresponds to your oral health and your chances of developing periodontal diseases.
If you notice these periodontal disease symptoms, it’s time to book an appointment with Dr. Harris.
Despite how destructive untreated periodontal disease can be, the symptoms of gingivitis and even mild periodontitis can be tricky to notice. While a decayed tooth may make itself known by giving you a nasty toothache, your periodontal disease may be much more subtle.
Here are the most common red flags of gingivitis and periodontitis:
- Bleeding from the gums after brushing or flossing
- Swollen, red, and tender or painful gums
- A receding gumline
- Wiggly or loose-feeling teeth
- Chronic bad breath despite brushing
- Feeling like your teeth don’t feel right when you bite down
If you have any reason to believe there might be something amiss with your gums or teeth, Dr. Harris highly recommends you give him a call to discuss your symptoms. The faster you can get treatment, the better.
With the help of Dr. Harris, a periodontal disease diagnosis doesn’t mean the end of a beautiful smile.
Dr. Harris and his team are highly skilled at providing effective yet gentle periodontal therapy for patients with gingivitis and periodontitis.
Periodontal therapy is a non-surgical treatment method for periodontal disease involving scaling and root planing to give your teeth a super deep clean down into the pockets of the gums. This may take multiple appointments, and Dr. Harris may recommend more frequent general dental cleanings to control plaque in the future.
To schedule your next appointment with Dr. Harris you can either give our office a call or fill out our online request form.