Periodontal "Gum" Disease

Periodontal disease, more commonly known as gum disease, happens to almost everyone at some point. Not taking proper care of your teeth is a major cause of gum disease, but even people who brush and floss regularly can get it. Sometimes it is caused by certain medical conditions or medications. For many people, it simply runs in the family. The good news about gum disease is that if you have regular dental exams and practice good oral hygiene at home, it is easy to control and prevent from getting serious. The bad news is that if it is left untreated, it can develop into a serious problem that can eventually cause tooth loss.

Periodontal disease begins when plaque, the sticky film that builds up on the teeth and gums, is not properly removed on a regular basis. The milder form of periodontal disease is called gingivitis. Signs of gingivitis include swollen or reddened gums, bleeding when you brush, bad breath that keeps coming back, and gum tenderness. Sometimes the very earliest symptoms of gingivitis are hard to spot on your own, but a dentist can usually see them during a routine exam.

Treating mild gingivitis is easy. A dental cleaning can thoroughly clean the teeth and gums, remove plaque and tartar (hardened plaque) and reverse the gum disease. Routine checkups and cleanings twice a year can keep gingivitis from advancing to the next stage: periodontitis.

Periodontitis is gum disease that has spread below the gum line. When this has happened, the treatment involves a deep cleaning or as it’s sometimes called, scaling and root planing. This involves the use of special dental tools to reach below the gums to clean out plaque and tartar. After this, the planing involves smoothing the area over to prevent the reintroduction of bacteria and to allow the gums to heal properly. Scaling and root planing is not considered a surgical procedure, but it is more invasive than a simple professional cleaning for gingivitis.

Surgery is sometimes required for more severe cases of periodontitis. If periodontitis is not treated, the teeth and gums will gradually separate, with the end result being the loss of teeth. Living with periodontitis also means you will probably have toothaches, chronic bad breath, and increasingly crooked teeth as the gums and teeth separate and the teeth become loose.

To reduce your chances of getting gingivitis, you should brush and floss your teeth twice a day. Flossing is very important because no toothbrush can completely remove food particles from between teeth. To prevent gingivitis from ever becoming periodontitis, visit Dr. Jessica Hill at least once and preferably twice a year for routine checkups and cleanings. To find out more or to set up an appointment, call Dr. Hill’s office in Alexandria, Virginia now.

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