Periodontitis, like gingivitis, stems from poor oral hygiene and can cause gums to swell, bleed, change color, or become tender. Unlike gingivitis, it is far more likely to result in an infection that can reach the bones in your jaw, which can lead to tooth loss and other issues. Immediate care is paramount to combating periodontitis.
The next step up from gingivitis, periodontitis is a more severe form of gum disease. This form has gone beyond the gums and started to cause an infection that can affect the teeth and bones in your jaw. The results of this disease include tooth loss and, in very severe cases, increased risk of heart attack or stroke. Fortunately, it is easily preventable with regular care, and if treated right away when symptoms first appear, there are high chances you’ll be able to reverse damage.
Causes and Risks
Like gingivitis, periodontitis is caused by poor oral hygiene where plaque builds up, then hardens in the gum line to form tartar. Inside the tartar is bacteria that feeds on the tissue in your gums, which leads to infection. It can take some time to develop an infection, but the longer the plaque and tartar festers, the more damage it does. It starts out causing swelling of the gums, sometimes a tenderness, but progresses to full infection as the bacteria multiplies.
The risk for developing periodontitis increases for:
- people who have gingivitis
- poor nutritional and oral hygiene habits
- users of certain medications or drugs
- poorly fitting dental implants
- hormonal changes and heredity
The most common symptoms for periodontitis include:
- tender and swollen gums
- gums that are purplish or bright red in color
- space developing between teeth
- loose teeth
- pus around the gums and teeth
- bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth
If you experience any of the symptoms of gingivitis or periodontitis, it’s time to schedule a dentist appointment. Early detection and treatment are the prime factors in reversing damage.
Diagnosis is based on the symptoms and a visual exam of the teeth and gums. To check the severity of periodontitis, we may use a dental probe to measure pocket depth within the gums. These pockets are where bacteria grow, so shallow pockets are better. We also check for readily bleeding gums, as this is a common sign of the disease being present. If we discover deep pockets, x-rays may be necessary to determine if there is any bone damage.
In milder cases of periodontitis, we will clean your teeth in gums in a process called scaling. This process can be a bit uncomfortable, but it’s necessary to remove all plaque and tartar. Next, root planing smooths out the roots of your teeth, reducing the areas where bacteria can cling. Finally, antibiotics may be prescribed to combat the infection.