GINGIVITIS & Periodontal Disease

After age 35, most adults are affected by some form of periodontal – or gum – disease, an infection of the tissues that support your teeth. In some cases, it’s hereditary – but there are several factors that increase the risk for this disease.

Bacteria Leads To Destruction

Periodontal disease begins when bacteria in the plaque around your teeth produces toxins that irritate the gums, causing infection. In its mildest stage, periodontal disease is called gingivitis – gums are red, swollen, and bleed easily. If untreated, gingivitis can evolve to a more severe form of periodontal disease, periodontitis. Here, the toxins destroy the bone and the affected gums begin to separate from the teeth, forming pockets that fill with bacteria-ridden plaque. This plaque hardens into calculus, forms more toxins and the process progresses. Usually the deeper the pockets, the more severe the disease. Over time, periodontal disease destroys enough bone to cause tooth loss.

According to the American Dental Association, there are some factors that increase the risk of developing periodontal disease, including:

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Bridges that no longer fit properly
  • Crooked teeth
  • Fillings that have become defective
  • Pregnancy or use of oral contraceptives
  • Tobacco smoking or chewing
  • Systemic diseases such as diabetes

Some types of medication such as steroids, some types of anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, some calcium channel blockers and oral contraceptives.

Periodontal Disease and Your Heart

There is a strong correlation between periodontal disease and heart disease – stronger than smoking and heart disease. Because the bacteria associated with periodontal disease is aggressive against the heart, those with heart disease need to be more prudent than usual to reduce their risk to periodontal disease. 

What to Watch For:

It is possible to have periodontal disease without warning signs, but there are still signals of gingivitis to watch for:

  • Gums that bleed easily during brushing or flossing
  • Red, swollen, tender gums
  • Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
  • Persistent bad breath or bad taste

If gingivitis progresses, additional signals of the more aggressive periodontal disease may appear, including:

  • Gums pulling away from the teeth exposing the roots
  • Permanent teeth that are loose
  • Food collecting between teeth
  • Root decay
  • Persistent bad breath or bad taste
  • Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  • Any change in the fit of partial dentures
  • Chewing sensitivity 

Prevent The Disease Before It Strikes

The good news is that proper oral hygiene and home care, regardless of family history or medical implications, can help you avoid periodontal disease. Dr. Sharifi and his team assess prevention and treatment methods based on an individual patient basis to ensure your care is customized to fit your needs as well as personalized to match your desires. In the end, your ability to maintain regular check-ups, clean your teeth and gums at home, and eat a balanced diet can be the difference between healthy gums and tooth loss.