Periodontal care is the term used to describe the practice of taking care of your gums. Having healthy gums is essential to your overall oral health, so if you have—or think you may have—gum disease, it's very important that you see your dentist for periodontal care.
What is gum disease?
Gum disease is an infection in the gums: the soft tissues surrounding the teeth. There are two stages of gum disease. The first is called gingivitis, and the second is periodontitis.
What are some signs that I may have gum disease?
The earliest sign of gingivitis is sore, puffy gums that bleed easily. Halitosis, or bad breath, is also a side effect of gingivitis, due to the buildup of plaque on the teeth, gums, tongue, and palate. Other signs of gingivitis are loose teeth, changes in your bite pattern, receding gums, and pus between the teeth and gums. Keep in mind, however, that not everyone has symptoms. Some people show no symptoms at all, and others may not realize that they are in the early stages of gingivitis due to other dental problems.
What causes gingivitis?
Gingivitis is caused by poor dental hygiene. When you don't care for your teeth properly by brushing and flossing regularly, and getting regular cleanings and checkups, plaque builds up in the crevices between the teeth. Plaque is full of bacteria. It is this build up of bad bacteria that causes the infection in the gum tissue.
Can gum disease be treated?
Absolutely. When gingivitis is caught in the early stages, it can often be reversed simply by practicing good dental hygiene. As the disease progresses, it is more difficult to treat, but treatments are available. They vary widely and depend on your dentist, any other dental issues that you may have, and the stage of your gum disease.
What happens if I don't treat my gingivitis?
If you allow your gingivitis to go untreated, it will develop into periodontitis. While gingivitis is treatable, periodontitis is not, and poses a far more serious risk to your overall health. Periodontitis is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. When the gums become so deeply infected, it can spread into the pulp of the teeth. When this happens, the teeth cannot function properly and will either fall out on their own, or be removed by the dentist. If your gum disease progresses this far, you will likely need dental implants or dentures.
How can I prevent gum disease?
The single most important thing that you can do to prevent gum disease is to practice good dental hygiene. Brush your teeth at least twice daily. Floss—making sure that you get between all of the teeth, including those in the back—at least once daily. Use a fluoride toothpaste, and avoid bad habits like eating a lot of sugary food, grinding your teeth, opening food packaging or bottles with your teeth, and eating ice. Professional cleaning at a dentist's office is recommended at least once per year. It's also extremely important to have regular dental checkups to detect any problems in their early stages, as gingivitis can be reversed if it's caught soon enough.