Periodontal disease, also referred to as gum disease, can present itself in many different degrees and ranges from inflamed gums to serious infections that can result in lost teeth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gum disease is also linked to other health problems, like heart disease and strokes.

What causes periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria and plaque build-up on your teeth. What can start as gingivitis, characterized by swollen and bleeding gums, can advance to periodontitis when it’s not treated or taken care of with regular dental hygiene. This can result in your gums eventually pulling away from your teeth and forming infected spaces, breaking down the bones that hold your teeth in place. Some risk factors can increase your chances of experiencing gum disease, like diabetes, smoking, and hormonal changes that take place due to puberty and pregnancy. Certain medications that reduce saliva flow can also lead to gum disease, because it prevents saliva from washing away bacteria on your teeth.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of gum disease include swollen and tender gums. You might notice that your gums bleed when brush your teeth or that your teeth have become sensitive or loose. Pain, receding gum lines, and bad breath are also signs of gum disease.

How is treated?

To treat gum disease, your dentist will first remove hardened plaque that has formed on your teeth and conduct an examination. He or she might take an X-ray and ask questions about your medical history. After a deep cleaning and scraping of the teeth to remove bacteria, some further treatment might be necessary, depending on the severity of your gum disease. Medications like oral antibiotics and prescription strength mouth rinse might be prescribed. In severe cases, periodontal disease requires surgical treatment.

To keep your teeth healthy and prevent gum disease, be sure to brush your teeth regularly and floss daily to remove bacteria from hard-to-reach places. Additionally, make sure you visit your dentist regularly for a thorough examination and thorough cleaning. Be sure to contact your dentist if you exhibit any signs or symptoms of gum disease. Catching and treating periodontal disease early is important when it comes to making sure the experience doesn’t get more costly or painful down the road.