Keeping your teeth clean and healthy is crucial to your overall health, but what happens when you fall off the wagon for an extended period of time? Slacking on your daily oral hygiene routine can allow for extensive plaque buildup to form on your teeth. If left for too long, it can begin to affect the health of your gums and cause periodontal disease. 

When caught early, any damage caused can be reversed with periodontal treatment. However, if left without intervention, at its most severe, periodontitis can cause permanent damage to the gums, bones and other tissue structures in your mouth, eventually leading to tooth loss. Let’s take a look at the symptoms, stages, treatment and outlook for this common oral disease so you know what to look for and when to call your dental team.

Symptoms of periodontal disease

Symptoms of periodontal disease include:

  • Bleeding gums during brushing or flossing
  • Increasingly bad breath
  • Changes in the position or loosening of teeth
  • Red, tender, or swollen and receding gums
  • Extensive plaque and tartar buildup on teeth
  • Pain when eating; and,
  • Loss of teeth

Stages of periodontal disease

Inflammation (Gingivitis)

The first stage of periodontal disease is inflammation, more commonly called gingivitis. Typically, the first signs of gingivitis are tender gums which bleed during brushing or flossing, along with discolouration of your teeth caused by plaque build-up. 

Early periodontal disease

If the plaque isn’t removed from your teeth when inflammation is noticed and build-up is allowed to continue, bleeding gums will become receding gums. As the gums recede or pull away from the teeth, they create pockets, allowing bacteria below the gumline. These pockets harbor the bacteria, leading to your immune system stepping up to bat and causing your gums to recede even further. This leads to increased bleeding during brushing or flossing, along with potential bone loss.

Moderate periodontal disease

If not dealt with before it progresses, the bleeding and recession of gums will continue and further progress to include the loss of bone support, leaving you with loose teeth. At this point, the infection can cause an inflammatory response throughout your entire body.

Advanced periodontal disease

Once periodontal disease reaches the advanced stage, the connective tissue that holds your teeth in place begins to deteriorate. Everything holding your teeth in place, from your gums to the bones and other supportive tissue is destroyed by the infection. This may cause you to experience severe pain while chewing, severe bad breath, and a foul taste in your mouth. You will likely end up losing your teeth once you’ve reached this point of the disease without immediate intervention. 

Treatment of periodontal disease

The first and most important step of periodontal treatment is a proper daily oral care routine. Dental professionals recommend brushing twice a day with an electric toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste to remove the bacteria which causes plaque from your mouth. When it comes to flossing, once a day will suffice to remove any bacteria that is caught between your teeth not removed by brushing. 

Dentists also recommended avoiding tobacco products as these can cause periodontal disease to progress much faster, and to visit your dental care team twice a year for a professional cleaning. In cases where the disease does not respond to regular brushing and flossing or professional cleanings, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics in the form of a mouthwash, gel or capsules.

In advanced cases where inflammation persists in areas difficult to reach with regular brushing and flossing, a surgical procedure known as “flap surgery” may be recommended to clean the plaque deposits under the gumline. Your dental team will put you under anesthesia and pull back your gums and clean the roots of your teeth. Your gums are then stitched back into place. If bone loss has occurred, your dentist may also perform bone grafting during your flap surgery. 

Outlook

The outlook for periodontitis is determined by how long it is left to fester before intervention; when caught and treated in the early stages the effects can be quickly and easily reversed, preventing any further or permanent damage. However, left without proper care and treatment, permanent damage to gums, bone structures, connective tissues and ultimately, tooth loss can occur. It is important to mention that the majority of cases that don’t respond to treatment are attributed to those who use tobacco products such as cigarettes or chewing tobacco.

If you are experiencing unusual bad breath, tenderness, swelling or bleeding of your gums, or noticing a significant amount of plaque buildup on your teeth, your friendly dental care team at Park Meadows Dental in Medicine Hat can help you get back on track to a healthier mouth. 

Offering a full array of dental services, instant financing, direct billing to most major insurance companies, and fair pricing, Park Meadows Dental will make sure your smile shines bright for years to come. Call us today at 403-527-9833 for further information and to book your appointment today.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Gurshant Grew - D.D.S. on October 18, 2022

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