29th June 2017

Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Periodontal Disease, but Were Afraid to Ask

Periodontal disease, or gum disease as it is more commonly known, is a very common condition that will affect most adults at some point in their lives. It’s less common in children, but it’s still important to watch for the signs in order to keep your child’s teeth healthy.

How do I know if I have periodontal disease or gum disease?

The first sign that you may have periodontal disease is that your gums will bleed when you brush your teeth. It may only be a small amount of blood, and it may not be obvious where the bleeding is coming from. So, if you notice small amounts of blood when you spit out your toothpaste, you should visit your dentist to check for periodontal disease.

How does periodontal disease progress?

As mentioned above, the first sign of gum disease is bleeding gums. You may also notice that you have bad breath. This is known as gingivitis and is the first stage of periodontal disease. If this is left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontal disease, which can lead to gaps developing between your jaw bone and your teeth. These gaps will mean that your teeth aren’t held in place as securely and they may loosen and fall out.

What are the symptoms of periodontal disease?

Healthy gums are firm, pink and hold your teeth in place securely. They shouldn’t bleed when you brush your teeth, so it’s important to monitor your oral health for these early signs of periodontal disease. If your gums are red and swollen or they regularly bleed when your brush or floss your teeth, you should visit the dentist in order to stop gum disease in its tracks. Gum disease isn’t always painful, so even if you aren’t in any discomfort, you should still visit the dentist at the first sign of bleeding.

Early symptoms include:

  • Red gums
  • Swollen gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Bad breath

Advanced symptoms include:

  • All of the above symptoms
  • A bad taste in your mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • Abscesses on your gums (collections of pus on the surface of the gums)

In rare cases, periodontal disease can lead to a condition known as acute necrotising ulcerative gingivitis. This is a more severe form of gum disease and the symptoms can develop very suddenly.

Rare symptoms of acute necrotising ulcerative gingivitis include:

  • Ulcers in your mouth
  • Painful gums
  • Receding gums, where the gum pulls away from the tooth
  • Metallic taste in your mouth
  • A high fever
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • A lot of saliva in your mouth

If you have any of the symptoms listed above, it’s important to book an appointment to see your dentist as soon as possible.

How can I prevent gum disease?

As will all dental problems, prevention is the best option. The best way to avoid developing gingivitis or periodontal disease is to maintain good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth twice a day and flossing regularly will help to reduce the risk of developing periodontal disease. You should also visit your dentist every six months in order to check on your oral health.

Visiting the dental hygienist on a regular basis will also help to remove any hardened plaque (tartar) which provides a breeding ground for bacteria. If you have developed any bad habits when it comes to brushing your teeth, your dentist or dental hygienist will be able to advise you on the best way to take care of your teeth.

What happens if periodontal disease is left untreated?

If left untreated, periodontal disease can lead to painful gum abscesses, receding gums, loose teeth and even tooth loss. It can also increase your chance of contracting lung infections and can have dangerous complications for pregnant women, including premature labour and low birth weight for the baby.

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