Gum Disease

Understanding Periodontitis: A Progressive Form of Gum Disease

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, exists in two forms: gingivitis and periodontitis. Both types of gum disease arise from a bacterial infection that is usually brought on by poor dental care. Gingivitis is a milder form of gum disease that causes irritated, bleeding gums. If left untreated, it can progress to periodontitis.

Like gingivitis, periodontitis causes gums to bleed and become inflamed. Other signs and symptoms of periodontitis can include:

  • Mouth sores
  • Gum pain
  • A sour taste in the mouth

Many people with periodontitis experience few symptoms. But even in the absence of obvious symptoms, untreated periodontitis can cause teeth to loosen and fall out or need to be extracted.

Types of Periodontitis

There are several types of periodontitis, but the most common forms are:

Aggressive periodontitis. This is a rapidly progressive form of periodontitis that leads to gum deterioration and jawbone destruction in people who are otherwise healthy.
Chronic periodontitis. This is the most common type of periodontitis. The inflammation occurs more slowly, but can still, eventually, result in tooth loss.
Periodontitis related to other conditions. Periodontitis can also occur in association with and be exacerbated by other health problems, including diabetes, lung disorders, and heart disease.
Necrotizing periodontal disease. People whose immune systems have been compromised by conditions such as malnutrition, HIV infection, and cancer are vulnerable to this type of periodontitis. The gum tissue, supportive ligaments, and bone all undergo severe damage, or necrosis, as a result of this form of periodontitis.
Warning Signs of Periodontitis

If you experience any of the following symptoms, seek dental care so you can be evaluated and treated for periodontitis:

  • Difficulty biting or chewing
  • Frequent bleeding of the gums
  • Poorly fitting dentures
  • Gums that begin to pull away, or recede, from your teeth
  • Loose teeth
  • Mouth pain
  • Mouth sores
  • Abscess (an infected pocket of pus) formation in the mouth
  • Bad breath despite brushing your teeth
  • Sensitive teeth, especially when you eat or drink something hot, cold, or sweet
  • Swollen, irritated, or tender gums

Periodontitis Diagnosis and Dental Care

If you have any of these symptoms, make an appointment with a periodontist (a doctor who treats gum disease) to receive a full evaluation and treatment. During that first appointment, the periodontist will ask about your complete medical and dental histories. The periodontist will also need to know about any medications, vitamins, and herbal supplements that you take because they can sometimes affect your dental care. Then you’ll have a complete oral exam during which the periodontist will check for gum damage and assess how well your teeth fit together.

The periodontist will also use an instrument to help measure the distance between your gums and teeth to see if your gums have receded. X-rays will also be taken to assess whether or not you’ve experienced any bone loss due to periodontitis.

It’s essential to follow the dental care instructions your periodontist recommends. Dental care for periodontitis will improve both your oral health and your overall health. Untreated periodontitis has been linked to other complications, including an increased risk of stroke and heart disease, increased risk of having a baby with a low birth weight, and poor blood sugar control in people with diabetes.

By seeking prompt dental care to manage periodontitis, you can protect your teeth and potentially avoid other, serious health consequences.

Original Article by Lynn Yoffee on EverydayHealth

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