6 Causes of Periodontal Disease and Its Stages
Everything You Need to Know to Combat Periodontitis
When we think of our oral health, we often think of our teeth, forgetting that it includes our entire mouth, including our tongue, gums, and other oral tissues. When we don’t take good care of our gums, we could possibly develop gum disease, which, when left untreated, can turn into periodontal disease. Taking the right steps to care for your entire mouth is the best way to prevent cavities and gum disease and keep your smile white, healthy, and bright.
6 Primary Causes of Periodontal Disease
Though it’s not something we like to think about, our mouths breed bacteria, and when this bacteria is not brushed away regularly, it turns into a sticky, colorless plaque on the teeth. Brushing twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and flossing before bed to remove food particles from between your teeth and gums can help get rid of that plaque. But when we don’t brush and floss often enough, that plaque hardens and turns into tartar, also known as dental calculus. Once tartar is on your teeth, it can only be removed by a dental professional with a dental scraping device.
And though plaque buildup and poor oral hygiene are significant contributors to the development of periodontal disease, there are other risk factors too, including:
- Smoking/tobacco use
- Hormonal changes in women, such as during pregnancy
- Medications that lessen saliva flow
- Illnesses that affect the immune system, such as AIDS, and their associated medications
- Genetic susceptibility
Typical signs and symptoms of periodontal disease include:
- Halitosis (bad breath) that doesn’t go away with brushing, flossing, and rinsing with a fluoridated mouthwash
- Tender, swollen, red, or bleeding gums
- Pain when chewing
- Loose or sensitive teeth
- Receding gums or teeth that look longer than they used to
Types and Stages of Periodontal Disease
As with any illness, periodontal disease starts small and begins to manifest and grow over time when left untreated. When it comes to talking about unhealthy gums, you often hear the terms gingivitis and periodontitis, but the two are not the same thing. Gingivitis is an earlier stage of gum disease. When left untreated, the plaque we discussed earlier can spread to your gumline. That plaque carries bacteria, which releases toxins that irritate the gums. In turn, this triggers an inflammatory response in your body, causing damage to your gum tissues as well as the bone that holds your teeth in place. The result? Periodontitis.
Gingivitis can be treated and essentially cured. But when it is left unchecked, it turns into periodontitis, which is not curable and is quite destructive. The four stages of periodontitis are as follows:
Stage 1: Initial
This stage of periodontitis is generally painless. However, you’ll notice that your gums seem a bit inflamed and they tend to bleed when you brush or floss your teeth. Unfortunately, even though this is an early stage of periodontitis, it can’t be reversed. Periodontal treatment at this stage of the game includes oral hygiene coaching and a professional oral deep cleaning called debridement.
Stage 2: Moderate
This second stage of periodontal disease involves damage to the ligaments or joints between the roots of your teeth and the socket. Although initial periodontitis is mostly undetectable, moderate periodontitis is more obvious because there is more damage.
Stage 3: Severe with Potential for Tooth Loss
At this stage, there is a high chance of tooth loss, and you’ll likely feel some pain or discomfort and experience bad breath. Also common at this stage is a bad taste in your mouth, and you might feel like your teeth look longer than they used to. The way your teeth fit together when you bite into foods may change as well, and you might even feel discomfort when eating. Some patients at this stage of periodontitis experience localized swelling or abscesses with pus. Both of these situations are often painful.
Stage 4: Severe with Potential for Total Tooth Loss
At this point of periodontal disease, you have likely already lost one tooth or more. Since your teeth won’t have enough gum tissue or bone supporting them at this point, they might not be strong enough to support biting and chewing. Further, you may experience drifting of your front teeth or gaps forming between your remaining teeth.
Prevent periodontal disease with good oral hygiene and professional cleanings.
The best way to prevent periodontal disease is to practice good hygiene at home and visit your dentist every six months for a professional dental cleaning and oral examination. At home, brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes at a time using a soft-bristled toothbrush. The best times to brush are after breakfast and before bed. Floss at least once per day, preferably at bedtime, then finish up by rinsing with a fluoridated mouthwash.
If you are overdue for a dental cleaning, haven’t found your dental home in Wilson, NC, or are concerned about the health of your gums, now is the time to request an appointment with Dixon, Boles & Associates. During your dentist appointment, we’ll conduct an oral examination and discuss the appropriate periodontitis treatment for you. Together, we can prevent your periodontal disease from progressing and can work to improve your smile and oral health.