Periodontal disease (gum disease) is a chronic bacterial infection of the gums and bone supporting the teeth. It is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. Because gum disease is usually painless, individuals often do not realize they have gum disease.
Gum disease is caused by plaque bacteria, which form a sticky film on the tooth surface. These plaque bacteria release toxins that can damage the gums. As the amount of plaque increases, saliva can begin to mineralize the plaque to form tartar. These hard deposits on the roots of the teeth only serve to promote more plaque formation and further damage to the gums.
There are two main types of gum disease – gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is very common and may affect up to 70% of the population. Periodontitis affects around 30% of adults over age of 30. Both these infections can be treated and controlled, but the earlier they are diagnosed and managed, generally the better the prognosis for your teeth.
Diagnosis and treatment of periodontitis in its early stages is important for successful treatment. If you have not had a periodontal screening examination with your dentist in the last 12 months, make it a priority. Remember, most patients who present with periodontitis are completely unaware of a gum problem being present in their mouth because it rarely causes pain until it becomes very severe, by which time it may be too late to save your teeth.
Periodontal disease is typically painless and often the signs are subtle. Symptoms may include:
• Gums that bleed easily with brushing or flossing
• Red, swollen or tender gums
• Pus between gums and teeth
• Gums that pull away from the teeth
• Persistent bad breath
• Loose or separating teeth
• A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite