Gum disease and gingivitis are words that get thrown around toothpaste and mouthwash commercials all the time. But do you really know what they mean?

What is periodontitis?

Periodontitis, or gum disease, is the inflammation of the tissues that support your teeth and can cause them to pull away. Sometimes this can be limited to just the soft tissue, like your gums. This is a mild form of gum disease called gingivitis. In more severe cases, inflammation can progress all the way to the bone that supports your teeth and eventually lead to tooth loss, called periodontitis.

Stages of Gum Disease

Plaque and inflammation can turn early periodontal disease, or gingivitis, into serious periodontitis that can cause bone and tooth loss.

What exactly is a periodontist & what makes them different than a regular dentist?

Periodontics is a dental specialty focusing solely on the inflammation that affects the gums and other supporting tissues around the teeth. A periodontist is a dentist whose practice focuses on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of gum disease. A periodontist receives extensive training in this specialty, including three additional years of education beyond dental school. They are experts in the latest techniques for diagnosing and treating gum disease, dental implants and gum recession and are also trained in cosmetic periodontal procedures.

Periodontists offer a range of treatments , such as scaling and root planing (cleaning infected root surfaces), root surface debridement (removing damaged tissue), and regenerative procedures (reversing bone and tissue loss). Periodontists can perform surgical procedures for patients with severe gum disease.

How do I know if I might have gum disease and what are the risk factors?

Periodontal disease can sneak up on you if you don’t know what to look for. You’ll often see symptoms before you feel them.

Symptoms can include:

  • Gums that are red, swollen, and bleed easily during brushing or flossing
  • Gums that seem to be pulling away from your teeth or receding
  • Constant bad breath
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together or teeth that are loose or moving
  • Sores in your mouth
  • A change in the fit of partial dentures

Risk factors:

  • Men – men have been found to have higher rates of periodontal disease
  • Age – Studies indicate those that are 65 and older have the highest rates of periodontal disease
  • Smoking & Tobacco Use – tobacco users are at an increased risk for gum disease
  • Genetics – some people have a genetic predisposition for gum disease regardless of oral hygiene habits
  • Medications – Some oral contraceptives, anti-depressants and heart medications can affect your oral health
  • Grinding or Clenching Teeth – putting excess force on your teeth and their supporting tissues can speed up gum disease
  • Stress – stress can make it more difficult for the body to fight off infection, including periodontal disease
  • Systematic Diseases – diabetes, cardiovascular disease and rheumatoid arthritis can worsen the condition of your gums
  • Obesity & Poor Nutrition – poor nutrition can make it harder for the body to fight of infection & research has shown that obesity can increase risk or periodontal disease

What are the dangers of gum disease and how can I prevent it?

The best way to prevent gum disease at home is to practice good oral hygiene. Make sure you are brushing your teeth twice a day as well as flossing. Using mouthwash can also remove debris along the gum line and between teeth that you might have missed with your toothbrush.

Going to your dentist regularly is also important in prevention. During your semi-annual teeth cleanings, your hygienist will clean your teeth and will check your gum line to make sure your gums are healthy. If you are experiencing symptoms of gum disease or discomfort, contact Beloit Dental today at (608) 362-0672 or visit our office in Beloit at 1454 E. Huebbe Parkway, Beloit, WI 53511.