Periodontitis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
Everything you need to know about periodontitis and potential treatment options.
If you’ve been diagnosed with periodontitis, you’re one of 64 million Americans with a gum infection. Your symptoms may be mild, moderate, or severe, but treating your periodontal disease may save your teeth. Read on to learn more about periodontal disease and discover possible treatment options.
GINGIVITIS VS. PERIODONTITIS
Gingivitis is a mild form of periodontal disease that results in red, swollen gums that bleed easily. It can usually be reversed with daily brushing and flossing, and regular cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist.
However, if gingivitis is left untreated, it may evolve into an advanced form of gum disease called periodontitis. Periodontal literally means “around the tooth.” And what’s around your teeth? Your gums and supporting bone. The bone and connective tissues that hold teeth in place start to break down under the attack of bacterial toxins and the body’s natural immune response. Should gum disease evolve into periodontitis, consult your dentist about treatment options. A delay in professional treatment could result in the need for surgery or, worst-case scenario, a loss of teeth.
While LISTERINE® mouthwash products can help prevent early gum disease, they are not indicated to treat periodontitis. For more information about the differences between gum disease, gingivitis and periodontitis, click here.
THE IMPORTANCE OF GOOD ORAL HYGIENE
Good oral hygiene is the first line of defense against gum disease. Keeping gums healthy requires brushing and flossing to remove sticky buildup on your teeth. Mouthwash kills the germs that cause early gum disease, and is an important addition to an oral hygiene routine. This sticky buildup, or “plaque,” is filled with bacteria that can cause:
- Tender, bleeding gums
- Bad breath that won’t go away
- Sensitive or loose teeth
- Receding gums
Removing plaque as it builds up is crucial for maintaining good oral health. The American Dental Association recommends brushing at least twice per day and flossing once per day. Additionally, that sticky plaque can harden over time and develop into tartar which requires a professional cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist to remove. That’s why following an oral health care routine is the first step in helping to prevent oral health issues, such as periodontal disease.
Proper daily oral hygiene at home is critical for long term success of your treatment. Other treatments will depend on the severity of your disease.
At the Dentist
A dentist may take an X-ray to determine whether there is any bone loss and may choose to refer you to a periodontist who specializes in the treatment of periodontal disease. A dentist may also recommend a deep cleaning (also known as root planing) to remove tartar above and below the gum line.
In addition to brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash, your dentist or dental hygienist may recommend other ways to clean between your teeth at home using special tools such as a water flosser and plastic or wooden picks. If you smoke, now’s the time to quit: smoking is the most significant modifiable risk factor for periodontal disease and smoking during periodontal treatment can make it less effective.
Your dentist may also treat your periodontitis with prescription medications, such as antibiotics which can help eliminate or slow the growth of bacteria that cause periodontal disease.
In some cases, periodontitis may require surgery. A dentist or periodontist may make an incision in your gums to create a flap. Lifting back the flap allows access to clean deeper portions of the tooth; after cleaning, gums are sutured back together and heal firmly around teeth. Other surgical treatment options include bone and tissue grafts.
What happens next is mostly up to you. Whether your periodontal disease is stopped, is slowed, or worsens depends on how you care for your teeth and gums. The past can’t be undone, but every day is an opportunity to renew healthy habits. If you’ve been diagnosed with periodontitis, your dentist may recommend a cleaning every 3 months.