You may have heard your dentist talk about periodontitis. Also called advanced stage gum disease, periodontitis is a serious gum infection that causes a host of oral health problems, including bad breath. It can damage teeth, gums and the bone that supports your teeth. 

The basics of periodontal disease

To gain a deeper understanding of periodontitis, we have to first take a step back. Periodontitis starts with gingivitis, the mildest form of periodontal disease. At this point, gums appear red, swollen and bleed easily. Although your gums may be irritated, your teeth are still firmly planted in their sockets, and no extreme bone or other tissue damage has occurred. Gingivitis is reversible with a combination of good oral home care and professional treatment. 

However, when left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis. Gums begin to pull away from teeth, leaving large pockets where more bacteria and food debris can linger. The plaque grows below the gumline, allowing toxins to irritate gum tissue. Essentially, this can trigger a chronic inflammatory response that starts to break down the bone and connective tissues that hold the teeth in place. In a worst-case scenario, tooth loss can occur. Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. 

Symptoms of gum disease

Although the symptoms of periodontal disease occur gradually - making them difficult to notice - the condition has warning signs. Learn about them to fight off this harmful condition. The symptoms include:

  • Red, swollen or tender gums
  • Persistent bad breath. Long-lasting halitosis is one of the crucial early signs of periodontitis
  • Receding gums
  • Gums that bleed during or after tooth brushing
  • Deep pockets that form between teeth and gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Changes in the way teeth fit together when you bite down
Causes of periodontitis

The number one cause of gum disease is the buildup of plaque, which may occur from these contributing factors:

  • Poor oral hygiene habits. Failing to brush and floss on a daily basis allows plaque to develop.
  • Tobacco use. Smoking cigarettes, cigars and pipes or using chew leaves toxic chemicals in the mouth that foster the growth of harmful bacteria.
  • Medications. Many medications can cause dry mouth, which reduces saliva, your mouth's natural cleaning agent. As a result, gums may be more vulnerable to infection.
  • Hormonal changes. Hormonal changes such as those occurring during puberty, pregnancy, menopause and menstruation may make gums more sensitive. 
  • Illnesses: Diseases such as a HIV or cancer interfere with the immune system. Diabetes affects the body's ability to use blood sugar, so patients with this disease are at a higher risk for cavities and periodontal disease.
  • Family history of dental disease. Due to genetics, some people are simply more susceptible to gum disease than others. 
Mouth-body connection

The mouth is the gateway to the body. Research indicates that periodontitis is linked to systemic ailments, such as diabetes and heart disease, and pregnancy problems. Scientists explain that the same bacteria responsible for periodontitis can enter your bloodstream through your gum tissue, causing problems with your heart, lungs and other parts of your body. 

6 tips to maintain proper oral health

Periodontitis is common but largely preventable! To avoid problems, here are six key tips:

  1. Brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
  2. Floss once a day. 
  3. Some dental profressionals may recommend using chlorhexidine (a prescription mouthwash)
  4. Some dental professionals my also recommend that you Rrnse with TheraBreath Periotherapy Oral Rinse to keep your breath fresh and gums looking pink.
  5. Cut down on sugary foods and drinks.
  6. Visit your dentist regularly, at least once every six months. See your dental professional immediately if you are concerned about receding gums, or notice any signs of periodontal disease.
  7. Stop using tobacco products.
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