Periodontitis is an infection of the ligaments and bones that support the teeth. When plaque and tartar are not removed from the gums and teeth regularly, they build up. Over time the accumulation of plaque and tartar can cause infection to develop. This causes red gums, or bleeding when you brush or floss. Healthy gums are pink and firm. If your gums are soft, swollen, and red or purplish in color, you need to see your dentist and see if you dental plans cover this condition. In advanced cases, you may notice loose teeth and your gums may have receded from your teeth.
There is surprisingly little pain associated with periodontitis, unless you also have a tooth abscess.
Periodontitis is the main cause of tooth loss in adults, so it is important that you see your dentist if you have any of these symptoms. Children and adolescents can also have periodontitis, but it is not as common in these age groups. Approximately 15 percent of adults between 21 and 50 years old and 30 percent of adults over 50 have the disease.
Your family dentist will perform an exam to see if you have periodontitis. The symptoms sometimes mimic gingivitis. In addition to a visual exam, your periodontist will use x-rays to see if you have lost any of the bone mass that supports your teeth and also to detect any plaque deposits under your gums.
Dental treatment will reduce the inflammation, heal any pockets of infection and clean your teeth and gums thoroughly. Your dentist will also help you develop a program of self care to prevent recurrence of this disease, and you will be urged to visit your dentist regularly to have your teeth professionally cleaned. Often dentists recommend you have your teeth cleaned three or four times a year if you have had periodontitis. Periodontitis is sure to recur if you do not change your oral hygiene practices.
If this condition is left untreated for a long time, the consequences can be quite serious. You can lose your teeth, or need to have oral surgery to clean deep pockets in your gums or to construct supports for loose teeth. Other possible conditions include infections and abscesses in the tissue around your mouth, infection of your jaw, and trench mouth, a painful bacterial condition that includes swelling and gum ulcers.
If that weren’t enough, periodontitis may put you at risk for heart disease. A widely-reported study in the Journal of Periodontology and a related study by the University of Buffalo showed a link between periodontitis and heart disease. Evidently, the bacteria that cause inflammation of the gums can seep into your bloodstream. The blood then carries these harmful bacteria to other organs, including the heart. In the liver, they may trigger the production of C-reactive proteins. C-reactive proteins are a predictor for increased risk for heart disease.
The success of treatment for periodontitis depends on how advanced the condition is. The good news is, with regular dental check-ups and good oral hygiene practices, the condition should never reoccur.