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Learn about Periodontal Disease

Periodontal Disease

At one point everyone has seen a little blood in their mouth when brushing their teeth.  But bloody gums are not natural and are usually an indicator of an unhealthy mouth. 

Red and swollen gums that have a tendency to bleed easy are often a sign of gingivitis.  Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gums, which is most often caused by a buildup of bacterial plaque at the gum line.  The plaque will continually build up if not cleaned away and can mineralize into tartar, which can further irritate the gums and cause tooth decay.  Gingivitis can also be caused by injuries to the gum by brushing too hard or flossing wrong or even sometimes by pregnancy or diabetes.  Gingivitis is the most common form of periodontal disease ("gum disease") and if left untreated, can lead to a more serious form of periodontal disease: periodontitis.  Periodontitis is the most advanced stage of periodontal disease and is characterized by the gums receding away from the teeth, leaving open pockets between the teeth and gums.  The gums as well as the inner bones progressively receive more and more damage until the teeth become loose and fall out.

To treat mild forms of periodontal disease, healthy eating and daily brushing and flossing are suggested.  Dentists may also recommend specialized toothbrushes that are more effective in removing plaque and toothpastes like Colgate Total that contain triclosan which help reduce plaque and gingivitis.  Dentists can also prescribe mouth rinses containing chlorhexidine to combat the disease.  If the patient is suffering from periodontitis and the teeth are loose, dentists will use the method of scaling and root planing (SRP). Scaling is a process where the dentist scrapes the plaque and tartar off the gum line and then uses root planing to smooth any coarse areas in the roots where bacteria may collect. This helps loose gums reattach to teeth and is used most often incongruence with the antibiotic Periostat, which combats enzymes that hurt both the teeth and gums. There are also other antibiotics that can be placed inside open pockets in the gums such as Atridox (doxycycline hyclate), PerioChip (chlorhexidine gluconate), and Arestin (minocycline) which help close the gaps and reduce bacteria.  Dentists though are weary of overusing these antibiotics to treat forms of periodontal disease because there is an increased risk of bacterial resistance to these drugs.

Around 80% of Americans suffer from some form of periodontal disease, but it can be prevented by flossing and brushing everyday as well as visiting a dentist twice a year for a regular cleaning and check-up.