Periodontal disease, commonly called gum disease, is a chronic infection of the gums, and about 80 percent of Americans have it. The condition often has no side effects when it first develops, but can quickly spread and destroy healthy gums and periodontal tissues. Left untreated, gum disease can cause gum recession, jawbone deterioration, and tooth loss. In fact, gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults in the United States, and research links gum disease to many systemic health problems, as well as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, low-weight births, diabetes complications, and other serious conditions.

What causes periodontal disease?

The main cause of periodontal disease is the accumulation of plaque, a sticky film that constantly forms on teeth. Plaque consists of bacteria that not only smell bad, but destroy the bond between teeth and gums. As a result, pockets form at the gum line, and in these dark, moist, warm places, bacteria breed and thrive.

Neglecting professional dental care and daily brushing and flossing can lead to the development of gum disease – but some people are more prone than others. Certain medications, as well as tobacco use and alcohol consumption, increase the risk for periodontal disease.

Do you have gum disease?

If you have periodontal disease, you may experience chronic bad breath; bleeding gums when brushing or flossing; loose teeth; tender, soft, red, or swollen gums; and pockets between the gums and teeth. Sometimes, however, no symptoms are present and your dentist may be the first to notice that you have a problem during your routine checkup and cleaning.

How is gum disease diagnosed?

Often, gum disease is obvious to a dental professional. To gauge the extent of the condition, we’ll examine your teeth and gums, then measure and record the depth of your periodontal pockets with a periodontal probe. A probe reading of more than three millimeters indicates the presence of periodontal disease.

How is gum disease treated?

Once periodontal disease is diagnosed, Dr. Allen, Dr. Neumann, or our hygienist will talk with you about treatment options and proper homecare to restore healthy gums. Your hygienist will perform scaling to remove calculus below the gum line, and root planning to smooth rough areas on your tooth roots where plaque accumulates. Antibiotics may be administered to battle the bacterial infection, and you’ll need to attend more frequent dental cleanings, as instructed. At each visit, the hygienist will record the depth of your periodontal pockets. The goal is to reduce the depth, which indicates improved gum health. If periodontal disease has turned into periodontitis – periodontal disease in its severest form – then you may have to visit a periodontal specialist for treatment.

Win the Fight Against Gum Disease

With diligent hygiene and preventive care, and the right periodontal treatment, if necessary, we can help you protect your smile by helping you win the fight against gum disease. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Allen or Dr. Neumann, call our dental office in Pella, IA, today at (641) 628-1121.