The word periodontal means “around the tooth.” Periodontal disease attacks the gums and the bones that support the teeth. It is characterized by red, swollen, and bleeding gums, and many people think that the gums must be inflamed for disease to be present. However, most people are not aware of the disease at first, because it is usually painless in the early stages.
Plaque is a sticky film of food debris, bacteria and saliva, which inevitably manifests on the teeth after eating. If plaque is not removed, it turns into tartar, a hardened deposit which then contributes to tooth decay. Plaque and tartar, left unhandled, begin to destroy the gums and bone, and the stages of progress of this destruction are called by different names, which are the forms of periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease is the number one reason for tooth loss. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one out of two Americans over thirty years old has periodontal disease. A dental exam is necessary to be sure one is actually not afflicted.
Symptoms of periodontal disease include:
- Bleeding gums – Although bleeding gums are so common you may think they are just normal, gums should never bleed, even when you brush vigorously or floss. Of course bleeding gums are very common; so is periodontal disease.
- Red and puffy gums – Gums should never be red or swollen.
- Tenderness or Discomfort – Plaque, tartar and bacteria can irritate the gums and teeth.
- Persistent bad breath – Caused by bacteria in the mouth.
- Pus around the teeth and gums – Indicates that there is an infection present.
- Receding gums – Loss of gum around a tooth.
- Loose teeth – Usually caused by bone loss or weakened periodontal fibers (the fibers that attach the teeth to bone).
- New spacing between teeth – Caused by bone loss.
Good oral hygiene, a balanced diet, and regular visits to your dentist can help reduce your risk of developing periodontal disease.