In the previous installment of our Periodontal Maintenance series, we explained periodontal (gum) disease and the warnings signs of gum disease. Now we’ll share the known risk factors that increase the chances of a patient having gum disease and the different stages of periodontal disease.
Risk factors that increase the risk of gum disease
Along with not practicing proper oral hygiene, other risk factors increase the chances of a person developing gum disease including:
- Smoking or chewing tobacco
- Diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and HIV
- Taking blood pressure drugs, steroids, and other drugs that reduce saliva
- Teenagers, expectant mothers, and women on birth control. Changing hormone levels can make gums sensitive to plaque bacteria
- Family history of tooth loss
- Periodontal disease bacteria passed through saliva
Periodontal disease stages
As stated in the last installment, periodontal disease doesn’t happen overnight; it’s a gradual progression of deteriorating oral health. A healthy mouth has gums that hug the teeth closely, teeth held firmly in place, and minimal or no plaque and tartar buildup. Recognizing an unhealthy mouth and the stages of periodontal disease helps with treatment and reversal of gum disease while protecting remaining teeth.
- Gingivitis – This early stage of gum disease happens when plaque bacteria irritate gums, which makes them swollen, red, and prone to bleeding. Plague must be removed to prevent it from hardening into tartar.
- Periodontitis – A continued buildup of plaque and tartar along the gum line breaks down the soft tissues that support teeth, and eventually the bacteria attacks bone tissue if untreated.
- Advanced Periodontitis – The damage to bone and ligaments caused by bacteria makes gums pull away from the teeth, which makes them loose and can lead to tooth loss and/or extraction.
Spotting periodontal disease
While you might notice some signs of periodontal disease, it’s best to have a dental professional perform a proper examine to determine if you’re at risk. To diagnose periodontal disease, a periodontal probe is used to gently and carefully measure the depth of the pockets around the teeth. Healthy teeth have a pocket of 3mm or less, and anything deeper than that is considered unhealthy. Another way your dentist checks for gum disease is through taking x-rays of your mouth. An x-ray shows how much bone is supporting the teeth and if there’s a suspicion of gum disease, he or she provides treatment options or suggests a specialist.
In our next and final installment in this series, we’ll discuss the treatment options for periodontal disease and proper follow-up procedures. The health of your mouth and body are important to us, and we’re always here to answer your questions.